The Midlife Feast

#47: Why changing your body isn't the body image fix you're looking for with Kristina Bruce

November 28, 2022 Jenn Salib Huber RD ND Season 3 Episode 10
#47: Why changing your body isn't the body image fix you're looking for with Kristina Bruce
The Midlife Feast
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The Midlife Feast
#47: Why changing your body isn't the body image fix you're looking for with Kristina Bruce
Nov 28, 2022 Season 3 Episode 10
Jenn Salib Huber RD ND

What did you think of this episode? Send me a text message and let me know!

When body changes show up in midlife, we often default to thinking that our bodies are the problem.  But does losing weight, or changing our body, actually help us build a better body image? That's exactly what Kristina and I explore in this deep dive into body image and body confidence.

As a Body Acceptance Coach, Kristina Bruce specializes in helping women break free from dieting and negative body image. Calling upon her training and as a certified Integrative Life Coach, as well as education in health studies, sociology, yoga, meditation, and self-inquiry methodologies, Kristina works with clients to help them re-connect to their deeper selves so they can live empowering lives in the bodies they have.

To learn more about Kristina's work, visit her website and download The Guide to Body Acceptance.

Looking for a place to learn more about midlife, menopause nutrition, and intuitive eating? Click here to grab one of my free resources and learn what I've got "on the menu" including my 1:1 and group programs.

Show Notes Transcript

What did you think of this episode? Send me a text message and let me know!

When body changes show up in midlife, we often default to thinking that our bodies are the problem.  But does losing weight, or changing our body, actually help us build a better body image? That's exactly what Kristina and I explore in this deep dive into body image and body confidence.

As a Body Acceptance Coach, Kristina Bruce specializes in helping women break free from dieting and negative body image. Calling upon her training and as a certified Integrative Life Coach, as well as education in health studies, sociology, yoga, meditation, and self-inquiry methodologies, Kristina works with clients to help them re-connect to their deeper selves so they can live empowering lives in the bodies they have.

To learn more about Kristina's work, visit her website and download The Guide to Body Acceptance.

Looking for a place to learn more about midlife, menopause nutrition, and intuitive eating? Click here to grab one of my free resources and learn what I've got "on the menu" including my 1:1 and group programs.

Jenn Huber  0:02  
Hi and welcome to the midlife feast the podcast for women who are hungry for more in this season of life. I'm your host, Dr. Jenn Celine Huber. Come to my table, listen and learn from me. Trusted guests, experts in women's health and interviews with women just like you. Each episode brings to the table juicy conversations designed to help you feast on midlife. Hi there, and welcome to this week's episode of the midlife feast. Body image is a big, big topic. And it's also probably one of the most asked for episodes are asked for topics when I'm talking to women in midlife and asking them about, you know, how can I help you feast on midlife? What do you need, they often say I just need help sorting out how I feel about my body and to stop pursuing changing my body as the solution to feeling better in my body. And so my guest today is Christina Bruce. And Christina is someone that I met on Instagram, she's a body image coach, but she really brings a whole wealth of information from her previous experiences, personal and professional, to this table. And I think you'll really enjoy this long conversation, the longest that I've actually had on the podcast at just over an hour. And as you'll see is definitely a part one of two, I think, although we haven't recorded the second one, but I think you'll see that a lot of what Christina talks about is very much in line with what I talk about when I'm saying we need to stop focusing on changing our body or seeing our body as the problem when we're having bad body image days. So I hope that you enjoy this podcast. I hope you enjoy this episode. As always, I would love to hear your feedback. And just a reminder that if you're tuning into this in November or December, and if you are looking for a bit of support and midlife, kind of uncomplicated thing, this complicated relationship that we have with food and our bodies and how we feel about ourselves and menopause and midlife that beyond the scale, which is my small group program is going to be enrolling soon for January. And this is a big part of what we're doing is trying to understand beliefs and trying to kind of change that default programming. So let me know if you have any questions about that. But grab a cup of tea, because you're definitely going to want to settle in and get cozy as you listen to this episode with Christina. Welcome Christina to the midlife feast. I am so so so excited. I don't know if I can say that more times to have you on the podcast and to have the conversation that we're going to be having about body image and our beliefs about our body. And how that shows up in midlife. So how are you?

Kristina Bruce  2:52  
I am well and thank you for having me.

Jenn Huber  2:56  
I'm I'm just so excited. I'm a big fan of your work, I share lots of your stuff on social media, I think that your social media account is one of the more refreshing ones, that it's very, just very to the point about, you know, what we need to change what we need to be thinking about and, and I know that lots of people, including me appreciate the work that you're putting out there. But I'd love to hear your story about how did you get to doing this kind of work? Like what, what's the story there?

Kristina Bruce  3:28  
Okay, I know, we don't have a lot of time, so I'm gonna do my best to not give you like, Don't action. Okay, so as I think, as it goes for a lot of people is there's a personal element to it, you know, my own personal struggle with my body image. So, I will start though a little bit at the beginning to say, you know, I grew up in a family of women who were not thin. And so And yet, they really wanted to be and really valued thinness. I can recall like on several occasions, you know, being in a room with them, and then them all kind of naming off like how much they weighed on their wedding day, as if that was like some prized moment that they held in their lives. And it was just all downhill from there. You know, it was like, so that was the messaging that I got. And I was not in a thin body. I wasn't an average size body. When I look back at photos, it's like yeah, there was moments where maybe you could say I was a little chubby and then there was moments when you know as you grow up, like everything fluctuates, but I was not thin and my sister was thinner than me. And so I could really remember feeling less than because they would compliment her on her appearance, but they wouldn't compliment me and and I just remember thinking like it didn't matter what I achieved in school or like what I was doing in sports or that kind of stuff, it was this piece that just really seemed to hold the most value. So that was him kind of I absorbed that in that messaging when I was really young. Now growing up, I was always, like, really involved in a lot of different sports and extracurriculars. And you know, that kind of thing. And I think that kept me really not focused on my body size. Surprisingly, I managed to go through seven years of competitive dance and like, wasn't concerned that much about my body, which I don't know how I managed to get through that period. But I did, thank God. It wasn't until I actually graduated university. And that was, like, you know, going out on my own for the first time that I really started to become focused on my appearance. Now, this also was tied to the fact that I was single, and I was dating and, and there was also a real deep part of me that in other stories, too, was like, my sister growing up was always the more attractive one than me. And, you know, I had a guy once say to me, like, you know, your sister's prettier than you? And I'm like, Oh, thank you for that information. Yeah, I was 12 at the time, so you know, prime like age for that. So, you know, it really like this messaging really came tied to like, my I took it as is, I'm just not good enough, you know, like my value and my worth, who I am not good enough, unless I'm thinner, unless I'm prettier. And I would say that that's, you know, a cultural message that so many women in particular get. But I think when I graduated, and it was at that point that I really started to focus on, like, I just, I just want to know what it would be like to be thin. And then obviously, then that would mean I'm more beautiful, because that was the association right that I had. And so I did what most everybody would do, you know, just focused on diet, eat and exercise. And because I'd never actually really intentionally dyed it up until that point, the weight came off very easy. And, and then the compliment started flooding in. And I started getting a lot more attention from guys. Like guys who just wouldn't give me the time of day before we're all of a sudden now like, knocking on my door, you know, and I just thought, on the one hand, well, this feels kind of good. You know, like, yeah, and, um, on the other hand, though, it was fear of like, now I can't lose this. Because because I don't want now to go back. Like, I don't want to feel less than. And so that was always there, underneath. So I could never, I never really felt confident or good enough. Because underneath it, it felt like, it wasn't really me. Because it wasn't like I was artificially man, managing my body size by manipulating and controlling to the best of my degree, my food and my exercise. So I ended up continuing kind of down this path, but at the same time, got really more into, like spirituality and just personal development and kind of wanting to dig more into like, myself, and what else is out there besides just, you know, whoa, the normal thing. And I ended up becoming a yoga teacher and got into meditation. And I really, really liked all of that. But then what was interesting was I got really then into the wellness world once I got into yoga. So along with that now comes like all the clean diets and the you know, the pure the good diets. So it's like, there's this there, even in the spiritual world, which I say is really ironic that it's all about kind of, you know, accept yourself and like see beyond what is just out there in the world, they really can't seem to get past this piece about body size and food. Like it's just they're just as normal and as average as everybody else out there with it.

Kristina Bruce  9:17  
Yeah, so now it kind of became this identity, like I started working a full time job actually doing something else. But I was bringing all of this knowledge into work. So I was like teaching yoga classes at the office and doing these things. And I became known as quote, unquote, like the health and wellness person. So now I have this extra pressure kind of of needing to look the part. So that was going on to then fast forward a bit more, and I started getting further into personal discovery and spirituality and I came across this woman named Byron Katie, and she has a tool of self inquiry called The Work of Byron Katie. And when I came across the As I actually came across it, like maybe at one point, and I started reading the book, and it just like didn't, I'm like, I don't know, I don't know about this, I just closed it. And then a couple years later, I picked it up again. And when I was in a low point, and I was like, Oh, my God, this just blew my mind. I'm like, this is the answer to all my problems. And and actually, you know, whatever, like it really was, when you get down to the deep, do you need to go there right now. But when we get down to the deepness of her work like it really, it really is the answer to our problems. So I really went hard down this path of The Work of Byron, Katie, it shifted everything for me. And then I also noticed, though, that it was a very specific tool, but I wanted to be able to, I knew at this point, like, I wanted to be able share this with people, because I was so passionate about it, and to be like, hey, like, you know, there's a different way that we can look at our thinking. And it really starts to shift how we live our lives. But I knew that it wasn't necessarily for everybody, because it wasn't for me in the beginning. And I ended up coming across a life coach training and I thought, Great, I can get different tools so that I could kind of meet people where they're at. And I went through this life coach training. And it was all around this time, that I had a boyfriend and he moved in with me. And that was really a key moment where everything started to shift in terms of the body image and the way in the dieting because I had to see really clearly how much the keeping my weight down had taken over my life. Because I was just single, I had nobody else to think about but me. And yet he came in and now all of a sudden, we're sharing meals. Now all of a sudden, we're, you know, spending time together. Like, I just didn't have the I had to choose like, do I work out? Or do I hang out with my boyfriend? Do I share a meal with him? Or do I tightly control the portions and the ingredients like I used to, and I, you know, quote, unquote, relaxed a little bit, because basically, I was like, I wanted to have a life with my boyfriend. And because as soon as I did that my weight started to go up. Because I was really, really suppressing my weight, like it just was not at the place that it naturally wanted to be at. And I freaked out. And I doubled down even harder. And that that ended up really kind of reaching me to a rock bottom, I became more obsessed with the scale, I became even more rigid about wanting to control my food and my exercise, and things. It was taking a toll on our relationship. My husband told me later that it was like walking on eggshells around me because he knew that when I firstly when I would come home from work, I didn't know it, I was just so hungry, that I would lose it if dinner wasn't ready. And it was I didn't know how hungry I was. And that's why it was because I was like I need food now. But instead, I would just blame him right for not having dinner ready. But he would say that he knew when I walked into the bathroom to weigh myself, he just did not know what version of me was coming out that day. Like because if I had gained a pound, it would just ruin me for the rest of the day. So I'd become really obsessed and fixated on it. And ultimately, you know, I can see this on reflection, it's like because I was just so afraid of losing this identity, this external validation, like everything that I had been taught to believe I was valuable and worthy weren't worthy. What made me valuable and worthy, which was being thin and quote unquote, beautiful, was now at risk. And like, Could I cope if I didn't have that anymore. And so that was what was really feeling all of this, but I didn't know it at the time. But it did come at and so around this time I had started come across intuitive eating. And I remember coming across it and I was like, Okay, I get it theoretically. And I just cannot do this right now. Because I just cannot gain weight. Like I just can't go there. But it took about a year of this of me being in this state and hitting rock bottom to realize that I just couldn't go, I couldn't do this anymore. And my rock bottom was like actually signing up for this really restrictive diet program that when I look at it now is like a sanctioned eating disorder. And I remember just the program was supposed to start the next day and I knew what I was in for. And I was just sobbing and sobbing. And I was like I can't do this. I can't do this. And so that was really like my breaking point and a kind of cold turkey. I just stopped the next day I said scales out. No more dieting and I had really then dove headfirst into Health at Every Size based podcasts reading the books like anything that was around body positivity, Health at Every Size, intuitive eating, and it really helped me to Get a grounding. Firstly, to understand the science around weight and health, like I was blown away to know that there's actually like zero causation in any of the research that its weight that causes health issues. It's only it only shows correlation. And that kind of blew my mind. Because it's just seen as a fact, right now in our culture, that weight is the cause of all of these problems. But actually, no research can prove that. So that blew my mind. And then anyways, I went down this rabbit hole, and that really helped. But it was an incredibly emotional journey. It was not quick. And I think most people just they know that they're suffering with their body, they know that they want to feel okay, but we all just want a quick fix a quick fix, we don't want to suffer anymore. But really, the only way out of the suffering is to go through the suffering, like we have to face then what what is what is it that I've been running away from? Or what is it that I've been wanting, wait to be thinner to fix? You know, what is it now to start to realize all of these associations that I had tied, very innocently, weight to my sense of self, and my sense of worth, being able, you know, fear of what other people would think of me, you know, I had to go through all of this. And I remember another kind of key pivotal moment. And my I call it recovery from it, because it really was like I was maybe a borderline eating disorder at that point. But even so, just deeply into being attached to this ideal body that I had in mind, recovering from that was, you know, I was I remember lying down on the couch one day, and just crying and crying and crying. And it felt like somebody died, like, it felt like I was grieving the loss like, and that I'm blessed right now that my parents are both still alive, but it felt like almost like that level is if my parent had died, you know, like that level of grief. And I realize now that it's like, I was grieving that loss of this self, you know, this identity, like, it really was the loss of this created person. But, but really, in reality, that was never me. And our bodies are not who we are, anyways, our mind creates an identity, this idea about ourselves in that is what is being lost, but we and our essence of who we are, can never be lost. But that's just where the pain then comes from. It comes from the attachment of these ideas that we have about ourselves. So all of that going on, coincided really nicely with the end of my life coaching training. And that's when I was like, This is what I'm coaching. So I bring it all back.

Jenn Huber  17:51  
I love all of that. And I like I mean, people can't see this, because it's audio only, but I was like nodding my head the whole time. Because I know I relate to so much of that, you know, even just some of the stories that we tell ourselves, like how often do women say, oh, as soon as I got married, or as soon as I moved in with my husband, I gained X amount of weight. And we blame it on the fact that we're living with someone else. And it's the way they eat, or it's what they do. But what it is, is that the what we needed to do to maintain that smaller size body was completely incompatible with life. The things that we want to do, have a partner, get married, have a family, do all those things are incompatible with a relationship with food and exercise that is focused on making ourselves smaller and maintaining a size that is smaller than what our body wants to be. Right. So it's not the relationship that's to blame. It's that the relationship made that incompatible.

Kristina Bruce  18:55  
So yeah, and I mean, even to that aspects, I will say to you another piece of that is not to maybe go off topic, and I'm sorry, I'm doing this, but this just came up because I was I was talking with somebody about dating and online dating, especially, we live in such an image focused culture, particularly with online dating, you know, we think we need to sell ourselves to somebody, we need to show like our quote unquote, best version of ourselves so that we can like lock them down. And and I mean, I'm sure that's not what people are really thinking. But you know, that's really that there is kind of that mentality. And so when we get into a relationship that really is genuinely loving and supportive, we can also relax and that we can realize, like I was doing that because I was fearful that I wouldn't find somebody who would just maybe like me, for me, I'm the size that I am. And any relationship that is based on loving you for who you are. If your body size does change a bit, you know that person is still going to stick around because they're not there for you. Your body size, they're there for you. So I just want to say there's that element to it's like we see it as a bad thing. But is that really a bad thing like to relax and to love, you know, to really actually be loved for who you are. Because if you're in a long term marriage, like you're none of your bodies are getting closer to the beauty ideal. It's, it's only downhill from here and that respect, so it better be based on something else. And is that a problem? You know, like is maybe that's a really beautiful thing that you quote, unquote, let yourself go in a relationship because you can, you don't have to be holding on to that fear anymore.

Jenn Huber  20:39  
That is a really beautiful thought. It makes me think of the picture that went around social media of Pierce Brosnan and his wife about a year ago, I can't remember what her name is. But she she was in the modeling fitness industry. And they showed a side by side of them like 20 years ago on them now and their bodies have changed as bodies do. And it was really, like, I thought it was beautiful. And I thought that it was such a real life reminder. You know, in a culture that is obsessed with fitness and beauty and anti aging to be like, Hey, look at these people whose bodies have aged, and they're still into each other. And they're just kind of doing it side by side. Like they have this parallel journey because that's what bodies do bodies change, and that's okay. Okay, I love to bring it back to midlife. We're gonna bring it back to midlife, I'm going to circle back. So because so much is happening in all stages of midlife, it feels very uncomfortable. Even if the body isn't changing on the outside, how we feel is changing. So people will describe and I experienced it myself of this, I don't recognize myself anymore. I don't feel like myself anymore. And I think because of that it's very, there's a natural tendency to become attached to what our bodies look like on the outside, because that feels like something we should be able to control that if we can control what we present to the world, then no one needs to know the chaos that's happening underneath. So and there's a fear of fear. And I mean, I have I have worked in this area of health now for almost 25 years. I've worked with people in all ages and stages of life, from young children to people in their 80s and 90s. And there is nothing like the fear of body change that happens. In perimenopause, there is something almost urgent about it primal about it. Like it's a tear, it's a terror. It's you know, it's my body's changing. I can't control it. All the things that used to be working aren't working anymore. You've got to help me I don't know what to do. Like it's very, very urgent. And I'd love to hear your perspective on why we fear waking, because I don't love that my hair is getting super Gray. I don't love that my skin's getting creepy. I don't love lots of things, but I don't fear it. It's not like a primal fear. And that's really what waking feels like in midlife to so many people.

Kristina Bruce  23:17  
It's such, yeah, there's so much there, you just said that I want to talk about and it's such a huge area. So I'm gonna do my best here. The first thing that came up for me because I haven't been through menopause yet, it's not super far off for me. But I haven't experienced yet so I can understand how if you feel like you're not yourself anymore, and all you really yearn for is to feel like yourself again, it makes sense why you would want to go back to try to reclaim that body. You know, what did what did that body look like when I felt like myself. And if I could get maybe that back then maybe I'll start to feel like myself, again. It's very common when people have weight gain, they see themselves in photos, and they're like, I don't recognize myself. And you know, so that can also be really disorienting. So I just wanted to kind of comment on that, that it makes a lot of sense why we would now when you talk about this primal fear that comes up. There's something that I think it's important to talk about that which is particularly for women, if we look at you know, generations past it wasn't that long ago that women literally needed to be married to a man for survival. You know, you needed that you couldn't couldn't get it you know, you weren't your own person legally at one point. So you needed you needed that man to support you. You needed the income the roof over your head for your for your physical survival, really, and if you didn't have family to fall back on, which, you know, for many people they didn't. Then it was necessary for you to find a partner. And one of the best ways that you could do that, particularly because women have been so valued for their appearance was to look good. And so if we, I say that we can't really discount that, that is kind of, you know, running in our genes like, like that has been passed down from generation to generation in very, in maybe not so overt ways. But you know, there, I'm sure there are women who maybe had their mothers or grandmothers tell them like, you need to stay slim in order to find a man, right. So because it's coming from that place of survival. So when that comes up, it's like, let's really acknowledge that that is there. And that exists. No, thankfully, we are living in a time where we don't require needing to be with somebody else anymore for us to get a job and get a house and or, you know, take care of ourselves like and legally in that respect, right? Because we were legally able to do all that now. And yet, though, we still live in a culture that is very appearance focused, and Moe is most much more harsher on their criticism and judgment of women and their appearance and weight. I mean, unfortunately, I would say it's almost now as much for men too, these days, like, I don't think anybody escapes that. But you see that women's appearance tends to get commented on a lot more than, than men still. So and not just by men, by other women. No, of course, oh, yeah, men and women, women can almost be worse in that respect it too, because because they're so fixated on themselves, like, the thing is, is that what we judge and other people were judging in ourselves, you know, it's like what we see primarily, it's like the example of, if we decide we're going to get a yellow car, you know, we buy a yellow car. And now all of a sudden, like, we're seeing all the yellow cars out there that exists, whereas before we didn't, they didn't come into our awareness. So if we're, if, as me of me, as a person is very much fixated on my own body size and appearance, I'm much more likely to look at body size and appearance and others. So and I say that to you to keep that in mind, if there's a fear of judgment from others, because it's not actually really about you. Like when people judge you and your body size, it's not really about you, it's about them. Like they're just expressing their own judgments and opinions, but it's not personal. And I know it feels personal, because it can hurt if the judgment are harsh. But if we can look at it and say, like, this is their stuff, you know, this isn't really actually about me. So there's that survival piece, there's the fact that we live in an image based culture. And then the the kind of real root of it is when we then have these beliefs about what do I make weight gain mean, about myself, about who I am? About my value? about my future? You know, that is where the suffering comes in. Because here's the thing, bodies are neutral, until we layer a judgment on top of it. Yep. And so that's really, what's, what's going on here. So, if it's that we fear that we're going to lose approval from other people, well, that means that we're really relying on it from other people in order to feel okay. So that means that we have to look at, okay, well, how can I end up feeling okay about myself, just as I am, even if nobody else ever says a nice, you know, thing about my body again, because the thing is, is that innately, we are valuable and worthy as we are, if we look at it, like when babies are born into the world, you know, we think they're perfect, just as they are. They, they don't have to do anything. In fact, they do all these disgusting things. They don't like, hey, they don't listen to us, like, you know, like, they, they're there. But we see them as perfect because they are because we haven't layered judgments and beliefs onto them. But we end up picking up these ideas and judgments and beliefs very easy innocently, when we grow up, that it ends up covering up the pureness in the in the worthiness and the value that we are, we don't lose that. It just gets it just gets clouded over by these ideas and beliefs that we have about ourselves. And the thing is, is that it and that ends up forming an identity. So we have an idea about like an identity is really just an idea that we have about ourselves. But is that really Who we are, like, who are you? If if you identify, say, with your job or your profession, and then all of a sudden, now something happens where you're no longer working in that field or you retire? Well, are you still you, you know, like, has anything changed about you. But if you think that you are the job, and you think that your source of worth or value comes from that, well, then yeah, it's going to feel like you lost you. But you are not that. That is just a job you are doing. And it's a myths. It's a misdirection, to think that your value and your worth comes from what you do, or what your body sizes. Because it's, it's really nothing more than beliefs.

Jenn Huber  30:50  
It is so, so powerful, so powerful. I already know that I'm going to like sound clip that because, you know, I tell people all the time. And I love when other people say it too, that when you're feeling bad about your body, it's not about your body, you're feeling bad about the thoughts and feelings that you're having about your body. And those are influenced by our culture, they're influenced by your experiences, they're influenced by what people tell you. But they have no meaning until you assign that value to them. So you can change your thoughts and your feelings and therefore change how you feel about your body. But it's a hard sell. Like, it's a really hard sell, because it has not been most people's lived experience. their lived experience has been what yours was, and what mine was that when we were in smaller bodies, doing the things that people in smaller bodies do that have value and worth in our society that we were praised. And that we were told that we were good, and we were worthy. And we were congratulated and celebrated. And so we assign our worth to that. We don't assign our worth to who we are as people. And you know, I think that for women in for anybody really, but for women in midlife who are going through these, like cataclysmic changes in their bodies that are pre programmed into our DNA, you know, that leads to a redistribution of assets, whether or not the scale changes or not clothes fit differently, things, we wear them differently, just because of how our body has changed, we have to let go of the external, worse, that has been assigned to a body size and shape because we can't control it, we cannot maintain the kind of control that we've been after. And in order that that's how you make peace. That is literally the that's the secret to making peace with your body is giving up the control or the illusion of control that you have had. So yeah, thank you. Thank you. Thank you for saying that so much. I went off on my own little rant. That's great. So okay, so to come back to, you know, women in midlife have these like, you know, this primal fear. And it really does feel like we're at war with our bodies, because things are changing without our consent, without any control feels like it's happening to us. And there's an entire industry that is built on preying on those fears. And, you know, women will try anything and everything and it feels like they're constantly in a battle, a losing battle, but that they're constantly in a battle. What are some of the things that might start to shift that from being a war? Two, as I say, like you're on the same team, like, be on the same team? How do you stop being at war with your body? Especially if you've been dieting for 30? Or 40? years?

Kristina Bruce  33:47  
Yeah, so it again comes it does come down to like, why is it a big deal that you're gaining weight? Why is it a big deal that your body is changing? Because that's going to start to suss out then all of the different beliefs that we have about what we make it mean about ourselves? There is something you you because you talked about primal fear again and so I want to come back to that. It can really it can really feel we have the visceral experience of of fear and that we are not safe when this comes up like we feel it as the fight flight or freeze response right like we feel it physically in the body maybe it's an increase heart rate, the anxiety comes like we could we can feel the fear and it's like this is not safe. This is not safe, I have to do something. So the thing I want to talk about with that is our brain or our minds job is to keep us physically safe. Like that's its purpose of really of existing for us in the world is so that we physically can remain safe. But the thing is, is that It's still running like think it's like running on like version 1.0. Like it's still running in the same way that it did when we really legitimately had to be alert for our physical safety. So, you know, way back when when we're just like walking out in the world, and we see a rustling in the bush. And we're like, is it a bear? Like, is it going to eat me? You know, that fear kicks in and we bolt so that we don't get eaten. And then like, from a distance, all of a sudden, a deer comes out. And we're like, okay, it's just a deer. But we're like, yeah, no problem. Because if I didn't run, then the beer bear would have eaten me, and it would have been game over. So what the mind does is that it's constantly looking, and it's and so the mind is actually really happy to be wrong. Like it would rather it be wrong and you be safe, then, or Yeah, like wrong like that. It's not actually bear, right? So be wrong about that. Then say, like, Oh, I think it's just a deer, you're fine. And then you're not fine, because it was a bear. So it's like, I would rather like be wrong, and you be safe than me be right and think it's a deer and you'll be eaten. So it's always then going to be on the lookout for anything that it thinks could be a threat to us that could threaten our safety. But what it does then is it looks at all these things that aren't actually a threat to our safety. So it's like, oh, somebody made a negative judgment about my body. Well, you know, maybe that means like, then all of a sudden, our mind can really fast go down this whole long train of like, well, now maybe they don't like me. And if they don't like me, maybe other people don't like me. And then maybe now I have no friends. And then what if my partner like I mean, it's, it sounds silly and extreme, but this is kind of where it goes it like maybe I'll be ostracized. And again, like going back to primal stuff, being ostracized way back, when was certain death, like when you were ostracized from the tribe, you were gonna die, like, because you just didn't have very, your chances of survival are way stronger when you're surrounded by others, than if you're on your own. So that primal fear response gets activated. When our mind is looking for it's finding all of these quote unquote, problems. And it's projecting this like, dire future. And it happens often without us even realizing it. All we notice what's going on is I feel fear, this feels dangerous. This is a threat, I need to do something to stop this. But you don't. You're not in physical danger. It's not actually a threat. Like unless you're standing in the middle of the road and a car is coming at you like you are not in physical danger. It's not a threat. So what if we could look at these thoughts that we have, and the feelings we most often experience at first, as a strong feeling? What if we could look at this and say, wow, like, I'm feeling really scared right now about this. But I'm actually safe. Like, I am okay. It doesn't feel safe, really doesn't feel safe. In fact, it feels horrible, in my mind is like narrating a terrible story about my life and my future and myself. But what if that's just thoughts that the mind is spewing out in order to try to keep you safe? Because what the mind does is it also comes up with a whole bunch of thoughts to try to get you to change so that you're safe. So if the mind thinks that weight gain is somehow unsafe, like, which it's actually not, you're not in imminent, and I'm talking imminent. Anyways, I'm just realizing people are going to start being like, Yeah, but like, if you gain weight, your health and blah, blah, blah, I'm like, that's a whole other story. In this moment, let's just let's just pretend to in this moment, it's okay. You're not safe. What if you're safe, you're safe? What if you could just notice it as the mind is starting to tell you a story about yourself, about your body, about your life, and you're starting to experience the uncomfortable feelings that are associated with that terrible story that's going on in your mind. And you just kind of notice it for what it is. It's a story. I don't have to I can just experience that I can feel it. I can feel feelings, that I may not like feeling feelings, but I can feel feelings because a lot of this too, when we really want to get into it is we when we come out to it. Nothing's wrong. It's like the thing that's that that we think is wrong is we just don't like feeling a feeling. Yeah, because that's it. Like the only thing that's going on is we are feeling a negative feeling that's associated with a story that our mind is telling us about our bodies and about ourselves. What we don't like about it is we don't feel good. We have emotion. We don't like, well, what if you could just see that as an emotion? You don't like it doesn't feel good. You're not a threat. Your mind's telling you a real good story about it, though? Oh, hey, like, what if this? What if just try it, just try it? What if this is just a story? What if I could feel these feelings because here's the thing, feelings and thoughts pass. That is their nature. They don't stay, they stay if we keep like trying to bring them back, but they just keep wanting to go, but we just keep bringing them back. But they don't stay. That's not their nature, thoughts and feelings move. So if I could sit here and just notice that I'm experiencing thoughts and feelings, and I'm actually safe, what would happen? And then who am I? Okay, now we're getting like really deep. But who is this person that is noticing these thoughts and feelings? Because thoughts and feelings are actually objects of acts of experience and our awareness. They're they're like, weather that moves through the sky. Right, like, weather mood analogy. Yeah, like weather moves. It's I wish I could say I came up with it, I did not. I'm just sharing it. Weather moves through the sky, but the sky remains on touched. We can forget the sky is we can forget the sky is there. Because all we're experiencing is experiencing as the weather. Sometimes it's like just a gentle cloud cover. And you know, it's like, it's all down. And then sometimes it's a frickin hurricane. But it passes, and the sky is still there has been the whole time. And it's untouched. And that is that's really who we are. Like, we are the sky, we are the sky, we experience the weather. The thoughts and the feelings about our body changing is the weather. And we are the sky. We are not our thoughts. We are not our feelings. We have thoughts and we experience feelings. But it's not actually who we are. And I know this can seem so on topic, but I'm literally getting to the core of like, you don't need to change yourself to be okay. You can just realize that you're having thoughts and experiences that feel bad, and it's not you and they will pass. You don't have to do anything about them. Because they're gonna go on their own. And then just watch what happens if you just let it go. Just Just notice, like experience what might happen. How do you feel about yourself? Now if you realize you're just you're just having a thought storm, which has some feelings.

Jenn Huber  42:46  
It's like my new favorite analogy, and everyone's gonna hear this all the time. So yeah, I love analogies, good, bad and ugly, as I always say, because I you, that's how I relate to the world. And that's how I help others I think relate to the world. But so much of what you said, I just want to like try and summarize that. One, it's very much in line with what I tell people all the time that just because you believe something doesn't mean it's true. And that you can have a belief that feels like it is so true that you're going to crumble, if you can't kind of see it to fruition. And yet, it is not true. And that's I love the sky weather analogy, because that's exactly what that is, right? Just because you believe it doesn't mean it's true. Just because you believe you were happier at a smaller body doesn't mean it's true. Just means that you liked the weather at that time.

Kristina Bruce  43:39  
And we can forget to like, especially if when we were thinner, it required us to, you know, put in a lot of effort to be that way. Then, and I get it if some people were just naturally thinner and like they didn't they just were and and that that can be hard to like that carries its own its own thing, but if we require So just again, it comes down to tying appearance with our worth and value. Because that's the only reason why it's an issue like why else would it be a problem? Well, because now it means I'm not good enough. Wrong. Wrong. That's a false belief that something that we were that we believed and I understand too, that it's so like, this is not easy work when we are in a culture that is just pummeling us day in and day out, like you can't escape it. You're online, you're watching TV, you're you're in the movies, you're talking to family, you're at the doctor's like it doesn't matter your it doesn't matter. You're getting this message everywhere. You're getting it everywhere. So I get it's so hard to say the EPA, like everybody else thinks this. It must be true. Everybody else thinks that. Well, I'm also gonna say this. Nobody's happy about this. Like nobody is is happy with this belief. Even if you're thin, and you're like the ideal of of the beauty standard, you have the fear that you're going to lose it. So like Nobody, Nobody escapes this, and nobody wins here, everybody's suffering to some degree, they're just thinking they have to do this because they've mistakenly tied their value in their worth to their appearance. If they realize that actually, I'm okay, just as I am, I guarantee we'd be seeing a lot of different body types out there.

Jenn Huber  45:32  
Yeah. So, so funny on that, when I first move to the Netherlands, went to one of the museums here in The Hague, which feature is kind of, you know, 1617 century art. And the first thing that I noticed is that all of the bodies in all of the hundreds of paintings are softer, and rounder and bigger, then what we would consider ideal. And I remember mentioning this to someone, and the first thing and this person knew more about art than I did or do, and said, Yeah, and you know, what the really interesting thing is, is that most of those women didn't look like that. But they asked the artist to make them look that way. Because it's considered beautiful and desirable at the time.

Kristina Bruce  46:20  
It's like the original, like airbrushing or went to college, like, why am I blanking on the name, Photoshop? That's like the original Photoshop. But it was such like

Jenn Huber  46:31  
any, you know, we're talking like 400 years ago. So relative recent history, that skinny was bad.

Kristina Bruce  46:42  
Yeah. I mean, I used to work with somebody who grew up in Iran. And it wasn't like, I mean, she was it was maybe like, 40 years ago when she was a child. And at that time, she said, skinny was not considered ideal. So she was constantly being told to gain weight, you know, and so I can bring it up and say, like, cultural beauty standards have changed over time across countries. So it's obviously not a fact, it's not a fact that being thinner, is more beautiful. It's also to its, you know, I'm just thinking to when we're talking about cultural ideas and expectations, when, when our culture values youth, more like it values Youth First and foremost, and it doesn't really actually value age as much like there's that piece too, right. And so the fear of getting older, it's the fear of being erased from from the importance of the culture. And that's a big fear people have. So it's a kind of this double whammy. And so for women, it's like, they're valued for their youth. And also, then that comes on with appearance and quote, unquote, beauty. So if that is the epitome, then of being worthy and valuable, like, then it's no wonder people No wonder, especially women fear aging, and why so much money is spent on trying to stay looking as young forever. Now, it would be wonderful if we could start to value actual wisdom, you know, and not value so much appearance, but I always really talk about how I don't really care to want to focus on changing the culture. Because, okay, you can try to do that. And, and you might make some change, but you're always going to find people who won't change, you know, you can't force people to change, how change happens, and how the culture changes is when individually, we start to change, the culture then has to change. When individually we start to change, it has no choice. So how it starts to change to is we start, you know, talking differently about this, we don't pass it on maybe to the younger generations, we don't say, you know, we don't tell our children, like make sure your things you can get a man, you know, like, we wouldn't think to say that. So it's slowly start to change. Does that mean that we don't now you know, try to say, hey, maybe you can do some do this differently, or we don't put some campaign out or whatever, like, go for it. But if we, there is this quote, that I love. And of course, I'm now like looking for my phone because I have the code, I think, on my phone and I'm literally going to try to find it right now. Because I keep coming back to it over and over and over again, when it comes to why we just can't. We can't keep relying on other people to change in order for us to feel okay about ourselves. So it's a quote from it was like an eighth century monk, I think a Buddhist monk called Shantideva. And the quote says, Where would I find enough leather to cover the entire store? surface of the earth. But with leather soles beneath my feet, it's as if the whole world has been covered.

Jenn Huber  50:11  
Oh, that is really powerful.

Kristina Bruce  50:15  
So this is why like active shift, this work is an inside job. It's my job. And it's like, then it becomes easier to walk in the world. We don't need everybody else to change, we don't need the world to change for us to be okay, we are already okay. Because we've changed. And so that comes back to realizing who we really are, which is not who we think we are. It's not who we think we are, if that's just a thought. It's this is like, it's so deep. It's like cuts to the core. And this is like an ever unfolding journey. But if we can just realize because because if we need to be a certain way, in order to be okay, then we're a prisoner to that. We're not free. Yeah, and we're always going to end up feeling bad about ourselves, or feeling shame or some guilt when we're not that all the time. Because we're not always the same all the time. We're changing and evolving, like, yeah, we we hang on to things and try not to let things go. Because we think that then, who are we are, we're, you know, we're not good enough, or we just we feel empty, or whatever if we let that go. But we are always the one witnessing our experience. We aren't who we think we are, like, who we think we are those thoughts about us. We might have access to aspects of expression of different qualities and different ways of being, but like, we are just, we are not what our body looks like, you know, we we just aren't. And if it really, truly was fact that if you were thinner, that would make you happier than then it would have to be that every thin person in this world would be happy. If it was if it was, if it was fact that it would just have to be that way. And it is so not true. And the same would have to be that if every person who is in a larger body was unhappy, like if you were in a larger body, that it would mean that every single person a larger body was unhappy with that would have to be the case. And it's not, though, because there are happier people who are in larger bodies. So we're just mistaking this and we may end up thinking like, Yeah, but I can't do it. Yeah, but I can't do it. I get it. You know, we and we all come to this in our own time. And all I'm saying is like, just consider, just consider and and honestly, like if you want to try to lose weight, because it makes you feel better. Go for it, do it. Go for it, do it. I mean, you can I don't think it's wrong. It usually has to come to a point though, where we say how much longer do I want to suffer doing this, because there's pain involved in that. There's pain involved, because we're trying to resist something that that is we're resisting the reality of our situation. I don't think it's wrong. Like I don't think it's wrong or that you're bad to do this because I get it like I did it for so long, too. And it just comes from fear, it comes from the sphere of thinking that we're not and we can't be okay, if we don't. And we all come to it in our own time. And I just want to plant the seed that you you are okay, and you can be okay. Just as you are in your body size does not dictate your value or your worth.

Jenn Huber  53:59  
Oh my goodness, I feel like that whole piece is just so so powerful because it is it is really the truth it is anybody who has lived through it knows that that is kind of the path to fruit freedom. And that real body confidence is realizing that the discomfort of constantly being at war with your body of constantly worrying and thinking and planning and tracking and counting becomes so painful. And it's so interesting because, you know, people will come to me and we'll have like the same conversation happening in like two minutes. One is I can't stand living in this body. I feel so uncomfortable. And yet I can't stand to start another diet like those two things happen at the exact same time. And they literally feel like they're in a tug of war right? Between feeling so uncomfortable and also knowing that what they have done for eternity is also so uncomfortable. And where do you go from there? Where do you where do you go when everything that you know, just feels? So yeah.

Kristina Bruce  55:13  
And that's why I said before, it's like the only way out is through. So we're doing the metals. It's the messy metal, we're trying to avoid suffering. Yeah, right. We're trying to avoid it. And the thing is, is that, so Okay, so pick your path like, and again, I really don't believe or say that there's anything wrong if somebody wants to spend their entire life dieting, I mean, my grandmother dieted until she was 91. You know, she died at 93. Like that, for her was just what she had to do. You can go that route. And you may feel it's your all you can do. And I'm saying that there's another path, like, most people don't realize there's another path, the dining path is like, you're going in a circle. So imagine, it's like you're walking a path that's in a circle, and you feel like you're doing something, you feel like you're going somewhere because you're walking, but you're not actually getting anywhere, because it's the same thing, right? It's like, you know, the diet cycle. It's like, you go on the diet goes a little while for a while, and then you go off the wagon, and then you binge, and then you're like, oh, man, I'm crap. And then you'd start a new diet and like, it goes like that over and over and over, basically, until you die. And then there's the other path, which is the body acceptance path, which is is Rocky in the beginning, because you're gonna then end up coming against all of these things that you're that we're using, weight suppression to avoid, which is these kind of, in some ways, existential feelings of like, you know, I am not, I'm not good enough. I'm not okay, if I, unless I lose weight, right? We have to, we have to go right into that and start to question that. And then people also think, too, again, we don't want to get too much to health thing, because we know that's like a whole other podcast episode. But it's like they think then Well, I have to do this because my health I'm like, No, you don't, what you need to do is focus on what makes you feel healthy. There are two different things. Yeah, very two different things. So absolutely. Do all the things that make you feel healthy, just don't make weight loss, be the result you're hoping to get, like you can feel better without actually having to lose weight. When we start to go down this body acceptance path and start to face all of those deeper feelings of like, I'm not good enough. Who am I am I, you know, feel the fear, like the fear of like, I'm not safe, I'm not safe, like, you know, you are, but I know it feels like you're not. We eventually we keep going, we keep going we actually get somewhere, like the landscape starts to change, our life becomes different, we start to actually come more into the power of who we are, we start to put those leather soles on our feet, you know, and so I mean, menopause can actually be as as tough of a time it is, it can actually be an amazing time to start this journey. Because guess what, everything is changing, is all crumbling. I mean, listen, I just had a baby 14 months ago, okay, everything crumbled. I am not the same person I was after after that. Like I was just a blobby mass of snot and tears on the floor because the identity of who I was prior to that had to die in order for me to become a mother and into this new person than I am so like I resisted that hard you know, like I just I was afraid I didn't know but I am so feeling so much better on the other side and thank God I went through that. So menopause in a way is can be nature's way to really shake up and show like where am I out of alignment with who I actually am. You know, I've built this life all the way up until this point. It What if it needs to fall apart in order for you to emerge like it's like the you know, the cliche metaphor though of the butterfly. You say when the butterfly goes into a cocoon? Like it becomes a blobby, jelly like mess. And then it morphs into this beautiful butterfly like it has to go through the part the messy middle the part where it feels like I can't do this anymore. Life is over like yeah, life is over. You're right life is over the life that you knew it is over. But that doesn't mean that you have to stay there like if you can allow that that life to die and realize that that is not you like you are still you and you are coming into a more evolved and powerful version of yourself. Then you fly like a butterfly. But we're so often just trying to still be a caterpillar. You know, be cuz we don't, because we don't have a lot of examples of, you know, of it around in our culture, it's like, we have a culture and a culture that profits off of trying to make everybody to a caterpillar, instead of, instead of allowing people to come into butterflies, because you can't really profit off of that, because what it means is like, Oh, you're okay, as you are like, you have your own inner wisdom, like, You're powerful. How do I can't make money off of that, like, You're your own person, you're making your own decisions? I can't tell you, you're not good enough now. So it's not it's not profitable, right? So, so and it can help though, like to get support, like, you don't have to do it alone, right, like, get support, work with people who, who are, who know this work, you know, who are who are doing this, like, we don't have to do it alone. And, but just because you're falling apart, consider that you know, like that. Another cliche, it's like that you're not actually falling like you have to fall apart to come together, like imagine that. It's not really a falling apart, but it's a new rebirthing.

Jenn Huber  1:01:05  
So I definitely, definitely think that we need to have you back on the podcast.

Kristina Bruce  1:01:10  
For a long time one,

Jenn Huber  1:01:11  
it's officially the longest podcast episode I've recorded. So congratulations, you definitely want to add another episode. But I feel like I could talk to you forever be and I feel like people will want to listen to you forever, because everything that you're saying is validating of the real experience and feelings that were that we have. But it is also providing people I think, with the light that they need to see their way out. Because you know, the menopause diet culture, echo chamber is full of eat this, do that don't do this, you know, you can diet and exercise your way into my body. And that's one not true for anyone. But we really, really need a way out of that, because this season of life can be amazing, it is amazing, it is full of real freedom and confidence and just connection to who we are. But you have to be able to see your way out of that messy middle of my body is changing. Therefore, I am changing. No, those two things are not connected. One does not cause the other they can be happening in parallel paths, but they are not directly related to each other. So I always intend Oh, sorry, go ahead. Sorry,

Kristina Bruce  1:02:39  
I just want to make one more quick point, just to stretch it out to the even longer podcast episode that you've ever done. Is, is when you when you do this work, and you're on this path, and you're on this journey, it's like just you can't expect everybody else to come with you. And it can feel it can feel like you're alone. And I get that. And I I kind of use this example of like when you sort of wake up to the fact that you don't have to keep doing what everybody else is doing and going on this path. It's like imagine that. Excuse me, you're in a room with a bunch of like drunk people. Everybody's drunk, and you're the only one who's sober. You know, it's like, no matter how you try, you can't sober the mob it just like they'll have to do it on their own right. And you can't really talk to them so much about what you're doing, if they're not able to hear you. So sorry for maybe the metaphor, but I like I think it works. It's like you just eat it. Sometimes it can feel like you're the only sober one in the room when you start to wake up to the fact that you don't have to be going down this path anymore like everybody else is doing. But just don't expect that like your that people are going to to change and just because you see it differently. It doesn't mean you're wrong. You know, like you're you're you're sober just because you're not drunk doesn't mean it's wrong.

Jenn Huber  1:03:57  
Yeah. Yeah. So you're not missing out on anything. There's

Kristina Bruce  1:04:00  
a there's a there's a piece of there's a piece of wisdom there talking about being sober in a room of drunk people.

Jenn Huber  1:04:10  
So I always end by asking people what they think the missing ingredient in midlife is and I know you're not in midlife. But you know, I'm assuming that you work with people in all stages of life. But what do you see from your perspective as being missing from the midlife conversations?

Kristina Bruce  1:04:32  
I think it's I would say then it's similar to just what we talked about is that kind of the butterfly analogy like that. It's not about there's nothing wrong. It's not about going back but it's actually a beautiful transformation into if we if we go with it and use the power of nature because it is happening whether we like it or not to have to evolve into it. This new deeper, wiser, more like you said, confident, connected part of ourselves, then midlife, like you said, can be a really great experience. So to know that like, what if this was nature's natural rite of passage that we didn't have to fight?

Jenn Huber  1:05:21  
Oh, that's really, really powerful. Yeah. What if, what if, just, if you're listening to this, and anything that we have said has really kind of resonated with you just let that percolate. Let that simmer that what if you're fighting this change that is going to happen either way, but you can get there in a much more joyful and comfortable way, by by working with it instead of fighting it. I love that. So I know that people are gonna want to know all about you, and how you work with people and where to find you. So how can people learn more about you?

Kristina Bruce  1:06:02  
So my website is Christina Christina with a K. And really, I like to start people well, I'm also on Instagram at Cristina, Bruce coach and Facebook. Also, YouTube, although you know, some of

Jenn Huber  1:06:18  
the things and I have not seen everything in the show, not Tik Tok,

Kristina Bruce  1:06:21  
I haven't I just haven't got there yet. And I just don't, I just don't know if I can. I love to have people start out by I have a free downloadable guide called the guide to body acceptance, where I list some of my absolute favorite resources, especially the ones that go really deep and like the the deeper stuff that we're talking about. So I have like Byron Katie's book in there. And, you know, just some really powerful books that I recommend. And then I actually started to a weekly free meditation group. Because you know, when I earlier was talking about, you know, where the sky that not the weather, like the meditation practice really helps to facilitate that. It also helps with our emotional regulation, where we're much more likely to feel bad about our bodies when we're emotionally dysregulated, or retired. meditation helps with all of that. So yeah, website, Instagram, Facebook, that's where you can find me.

Jenn Huber  1:07:18  
I will have all those links in the show notes. But I honestly cannot thank you enough for this conversation. It has, you know, filled my bucket. I've loved talking to you. And I know that there's going to be lots of people who just get so much out of it. validation, but also just, you know, I think a path, even if they don't know exactly how to get there, they know that the path will exist after our conversation. So thank you so so much for your time. And thank you for how you show up for everyone. I appreciate you and I really enjoyed having this conversation. Oh,

Kristina Bruce  1:07:50  
thank you so much for having me and I love talking to you too.

Jenn Huber  1:07:55  
Thanks for tuning in to this week's episode of the midlife feast. If you're looking for a little help on dieting, your beliefs about food, health and nutrition and midlife. Check out my group program beyond the scale which runs January May and September every year. Click the link in the show notes to learn how you can find food freedom and body confidence without feeling like you've given up on yourself