Brooke Castillo is a weight loss success story, mom, author, life coach, entrepreneur, and podcast host.
“The biggest difference between my life before I lost weight, and my life now, is my ability to pay attention to what’s going on with myself emotionally – and to deal with it – instead of trying to avoid it by eating food.”
Treating yourself with kindness is the key to changing your life.
Weight Loss and Cognitive Change
Like many of us, Brooke has a history of struggling with emotional eating and her weight. However, through introspection and research, Brooke discovered that overeating was only a symptom of other issues she was dealing with. She says it’s all about what’s going on with a person cognitively that causes them to overeat.
“The reasons why we’re overeating have nothing to do with food.”
Ultimately, Brooke lost 70 pounds. (31.8 kg) Looking back, she believes that if a person has not developed the skills, self-esteem, and self-image that free them from using food to process their feelings, the end of a weight loss journey can be a scary place.
Brooke shares that when she didn’t use food to avoid herself and her feelings, life actually became more challenging for some time. Brooke thinks that her ability to pay attention to what’s going on with herself emotionally vs. using food to deal with it is the most different thing about her life now.
After her own weight loss journey, Brooke developed a business around coaching others to deal with their emotional problems – both relating to food and otherwise. Brooke says that weight loss introduced her to herself in a way. Brooke discusses how tools that are learned during a weight loss journey can also be used in other areas of life. The cognitive models she uses now with clients and for training coaches can be used on many types of problems, not just weight loss.
Brooke discusses what she calls the ‘sacred moment’—that instant when you decide to eat something even though you’re not truly hungry. She says that often this moment is when someone comes home from work after a stressful day filled with making decisions, and they just don’t want to make another decision.
When you make the decision to eat, (or more accurately to not stop yourself from eating in that moment) is everything, says Brooke. She says it’s critical to emotionally and physically plan for that moment ahead of time, especially if there’s a certain time of day you are triggered to eat.
Brooke advises asking yourself: “Why do I overeat in the first place? What will be my experience if I don’t?” She adds that even if eating really does help make you feel better, it’s more important to feel the emotions that make us human and alive, including even the feeling of deprivation.
“You cannot hate yourself thin.”
Brooke says that if you can be at peace with your feelings, then you can just feel them instead of eating through them. She notes that the challenge and pain of learning this process is rewarding, because if you have suffered from binge eating or food addiction; then to be in a place where you don’t want to eat if you’re not hungry is “miraculous.”
Tuning Into the Body and Brain with Compassion
Brooke says that often we are disconnected from ourselves physically, so that when weight loss begins, people start to tune into their own hunger cues. This in turn allows them to tune into other parts of their lives, and emotions. Regarding self-medicating and bingeing with food: Brooke advises that you should avoid thinking you can figure the problem out in one day and not eat. People are often going against years and maybe even decades of a bad pattern of behavior, so it’s going to take a while to fix.
Brooke says the healing process starts with not beating yourself up after a bad eating incident. Once you stop beating yourself up, she advises people to figure out what was behind the urge to emotionally eat, and investigate those feelings once you are out of the specific moment.
Once we learn how to feel and process emotion instead of trying to just avoid it, then we don’t need to use food to dampen down the feelings.
Slowly you can get more and more and touch with the feelings during the actual episode. Be able to identify your out of control moments until the time at which you can identify those feeling as they come on, and head them off at the pass.
Once we learn how to feel and process emotion instead of trying to just avoid it, then we don’t need to use food to dampen down the feelings. Brooke stresses that you cannot hate yourself thin—you have to treat yourself with total compassion and forgiveness if you want to get better.
Retraining the Brain
People discover that “thinness doesn’t solve everything,” and that even when people are thin they still have to deal with the same problems and stresses in their lives. Brooke explains that the brain has the goal of being efficient, and it may be very comfortable with it’s own ‘rut’ of stuffing down feelings with food.
Brooke says that she meets lots of clients who have to deal with how angry they are—they are shocked by how much rage is within them, since in normal life they are often ‘people pleasers.’ Brooke says that most people have never been taught how to process emotions like anger.
Over-reacting or over compensating are common when we can’t express our feelings or feel them. She says that usually there are two common reactions to strong emotions: react strongly, or stuff it away. Brooke finds that neither of these reactions is actually useful. The process is to feel your emotions, and to let the emotion come into your body and experience it. For example with anger—you don’t have to actually lash out when you feel it; you just have to feel the anger. Brooke emphasizes that processing emotion is an “art form.”
Defensiveness and Resistance
One tactic Brooke teaches her clients is to deal with the comments of others by thinking about their applicability. For example, if someone tells you “I don’t like your blue hair,” that statement elicits no emotion unless you happen to have blue hair. It’s completely separate from you. If, instead, a family member or co-worker makes a comment about your weight or weight loss journey, then we need to really pay attention to our own reaction.
Brooke says that for the most part people are well intentioned with their comments, and we can let them say their piece, but we should simultaneously recognize that the advice is their thing, not your thing. Defensiveness about comments may come from not feeling calm about some aspect of yourself. And in that case, Brooke says, we should think about what is it that the person said that’s making you feel defensive.
Brooke feels that her primary goal as a parent is to teach her kids self-responsibility, especially the fact that you are the one who is responsible for how you feel. No one can (for example) ‘hurt your feelings,’ because you have to know that you are the one who is responsible for those feelings. She says this is a hard lesson to teach because we want to be able to shirk responsibility.
Be On Your Own Team
Brooke discusses the fact that even if others are supporting us on a weight loss journey, in reality “you’re on your own no matter what.” And, asks Brooke, who better to be on this journey with than yourself? Sometimes people might try to get support from others because they don’t have their own support. You have enough support within you to do whatever you want to do in life. You have to be your own biggest cheerleader! It’s not really the job of other people to support you, Brooke adds, that is your own job. It’s also your job to let others have their own opinions, and recognize that you don’t have to agree to them. Brooke concludes by saying: “The more I support myself, the more other people believe in me.”
Brooke listens to podcasts and audiobooks. Currently she enjoys business podcasts (such as the Smart Passive Income podcast by Pat Flynn) and self-help audiobooks. AND, 80s dance music!