EP188: The Truth About Dieting, Body Confidence, and Finding Love - Veronica Grant


Hello and welcome to episode number 188 of the Love Life Connection Podcast. Thank you so much for tuning in this week. I am so excited to connect with you and to talk to you about body confidence, emotional eating, dieting or breaking up with dieting and all that kind of good stuff.

We are going to talk about body image and food, and dieting, and all that kind of good stuff. This is a topic that’s actually really close to my heart. Now, if you’ve been following me for a long time, since like the beginning of my business, then you might remember that I actually started as a health coach. I really wanted to help women to break up with dieting and to just have a different kind of relationship with their body so that they could feel just more confident and they could feel happier. And they weren’t always stressed about, I can’t eat that or I need to go to the gym, all that kind of stuff. I had lived like that for a really, really long time, actually since about age 10 or 11 or so, and it’s exhausting. And it’s not a fun place to be.

At the time when I started my health coaching business, I had come a long way with my body confidence and no longer dieting and eating for a place of nourishment. At the time, I was getting a lot of messages from women that they wanted to lose weight before they go on a date, or that their husbands were skinnier than them. And so they didn’t want to have sex with them or the person that they were dating. Or they just didn’t want to put themselves out there when they “looked like this”. So I kept getting messages around that, and at the same time, my health coaching business was kind of on the struggle bus. It wasn’t getting the traction that honestly I needed it to have in order for me to continue that business.

So I was working with a coach at the time. She’s a life and business coach. Her name is Hillary Rubin. She’s amazing. However, she’s not coaching anymore, unfortunately. But she really helped me grow a lot as a coach and also as a business owner. One of the biggest things that she helped me to see was that my struggle around always dieting and my body and body confidence wasn’t just for the sake of being a certain size, but it was actually very, very intertwined with my love life. And in fact, I wanted to lose 5 or 10 more pounds, I wanted to go to the gym or I wanted to diet and not eat that food or whatever it is. Because I thought that if I looked a certain way, then all of my problems and my love life would just vanish.

I can actually remember looking at one of my friends one time, in college, we were all hanging out and she just caught me for a moment. I was just like staring at her. I was just thinking, gosh, she’s just so skinny. Like, she could have any guy she wanted. So I had really created this belief a long time before that, but a long time ago where I look a certain way, I get validation, I get approval, I get attention and that equals love. And as an adult, that translated to I look skinny, I get a man. I had to unravel that in order really to find the relationship that I have now with my husband.

My breaking point with my body acceptance.

So the breaking point for me was, I worked on the Obama campaign in 2012. And for any of you who have worked in the White House or in another just like crazy position or in a campaign know that it’s your job, but it’s also your life. You work about 12, 15 hours a day, and probably even more than that once it’s like the last couple of months before the election. So it was crazy pants and I was eating just total garbage. I was just eating whatever the volunteers brought in, which was usually brownies or pizza, or I was just getting fast food. And probably the only reason why I didn’t gain a ton of weight working on the campaign was because we had to be canvassing doors like crazy. So I was just constantly walking and knocking on doors.

At the same time, I was on Instagram a lot, and I had this friend from Charleston where I used to live before I started working on the Obama campaign, and she was a vegan. She would always post on her Instagram all of this vegan food that she was eating. So once the campaign ended, I was just like looking at her Instagram account and looking at the recipes. I was just so amazed by how much she just loved the food. Like, it tasted good. She said it was healthy and it just felt so nourishing and it looked beautiful. I just remember thinking, I want to have a relationship to food like that. Like, I want to see my food as just beautiful and nourishing and healthy and vibrant and fun to eat, fun to talk about, fun to make fun to, go shopping for or whatever.

So, I made the deduction of, okay, I guess I need to be vegan now. So that is what started my vegan journey and this was, again, back in 2013. One of the reasons why I really wanted to develop a new relationship with food is because once I finished the campaign, my body was just completely depleted. And I had thought, I just need to sleep it off for a couple of days, and then I’ll be fine. But it took about a month or a month and a half to feel physically recovered from the campaign. Just working so much, not really sleeping, very high stress job. And that was another reason why I was just like, I want to feel nourished by the food that I eat rather than it just be like an equation of, if I eat this many calories, and how long do I need to go on the walk for so I’m not going to gain weight, and it’s just an exhausting way to live. Right?

So, I became a vegan, and that is when I also moved to Washington, D.C. to start my job after the campaign. That was just the time when I also got more, I should say, I got back into my yoga practice after being on the campaign. And that was a time for me when I was just really learning to nourish my body. The food that I ate, it was fun, it was beautiful, it was nourishing, it was healthy. And sometimes it wasn’t “healthy” but it still felt nourishing because it was nourishing my soul or my pleasure taste buds or whatever I just simply desired in that moment of time. I wasn’t really working out that much. I was walking a lot because I was living in a city, but I was going to a ton of yoga and just eating vegan food, and just really feeling the most alive in my body that I’d probably ever felt in my entire life. And that’s when I was like, this is amazing. Like, I want every woman to feel like this.

And I wanted that for more women.

Now, I have to say on top of that, I had been a group fitness instructor for probably about, I don’t know, seven or eight years at that point as well. It was just kind of like an odd job that I did on and off over those years. Obviously, I was not a group fitness instructor while I was working in the Obama campaign, but it was certainly a side job when I was living in Charleston and definitely in college. One thing that I can remember my students always saying when they came to my classes, they would always say, “Veronica, you got to work me extra hard today. I had that cake last night or I had that ice cream.”

When I was thinking about where I was at that point, my mid-20s, had really healed this relationship with food in my body. And then thinking about these women that were coming to me, wanting me to “work them hard” because of what they ate the night before. That’s when I realized, I want something to change. This is not healthy. I know what it can feel like to have a beautiful relationship with moving your body, with food and getting off the diet train. And that was really what laid the seeds to my initial business, this health coaching business. Also, my new relationship with my body and my food were very symbolic also to how I was relating to myself and also relating to men, and how I got love from other people. And my validation began to come from within rather than from without.

It was about six months after that, that I met my husband Stevie. 

Three truths about your body and food.

Okay, so I’m going to pause for a second. And first I want to share three truths that I want you to know around your body and food right now. And then I’m going to dive a little bit deeper into how I made peace with my body. And then finally, I’m going to give you a few action steps that you can take right away. 

The first truth is, I really, really want you to know that you aren’t less lovable or desirable because of your body size. I know we live in a world where what we would call skinny people seem to be people who get the love or the billions of Instagram followers or whatever. So I get that there is a lot of messaging in society that contradicts this belief. But I want you to remember, you are not less lovable or desirable because of your body size. Maybe you put that somewhere, maybe make a little graphic and then make it your lock screen or just put it somewhere on your mirror where you can remember that. That is just something that I’ve had to tell myself over and over again.

The second thing I want you to know is losing the weight will not fix your love problems. This is a big one because as I shared, I really believe that if I just lost the weight, then all of my problems around men and relationships and dating would go away. I’ve heard from many of you that you actually did lose weight at one point in your life and your love problems didn’t get better. A lot of times we think, well, if I can just be skinny, and then if I make it in front of my partner, we’re having sex then he’s not going to leave me because I’m going to look good, because I’m skinny. Right? But the thing is, is that intimacy is into me, I see.

So sure, part of intimacy is just maybe being naked in front of someone, right? Like, that’s pretty vulnerable. But it’s also deeper than that. It goes beyond just the skin and what your body looks like. And if there’s a part of you that doesn’t really trust or love something about yourself that goes beyond the physicality of your body, then you’re going to always have trouble with vulnerability, with intimacy and losing weight is not going to fix that.

The third truth I want you to remember is, you don’t want to be with someone who only wants you at a certain size. So let’s say you do lose all the weight. And you’re a size, whatever, a size eight or a size six, whatever your “dream size” is. Well, I don’t know, what if you get pregnant? Or what if you just gain weight because that’s just naturally what happens. Our body weight fluctuates as we go through our life. Do you really only want to be with someone who wanted to be with you because you looked a certain way? That has nothing to do with love.

One thing that Ken Page and I talked about in the Summer Love School series is, yeah, if you lost weight, sure, maybe you would have more dates, maybe you would have more sex, that might actually be true, I don’t know. But let’s just say it’s true. But that has nothing to do with finding real love. 

 Now I want to dive a little bit deeper into my story. 

I think something that can really help you to shift some patterns you have around your body confidence and dieting and all that kind of good stuff. And I just want to share that I’m speaking from a place that this is still a journey for me. I really do believe that my body image and dieting and being able to control that or, I should say the desire to want to control that, is a core wound of mine.

So I expect it to come up again over and over and my life, I expect it’ll probably come up if I get pregnant. And then after I’m pregnant, I’m going to probably be dealing with it again, and then through breastfeeding and all of that kind of stuff. Actually, it’s been coming up a lot lately over the past couple of months, because you might have noticed that I have some new photos. Back in April and May, I had a big photoshoot for my business, and I had probably never experienced such low body confidence since this whole journey of mine started. It really brought up a lot for me, I was very tempted to start weighing myself again, to start counting calories, to start doing all of that kind of stuff, because it just brought up so much for me.

So back when I was living in Washington, D.C. after the Obama campaign, one of the first things I did was I stopped all dieting and all exercise. Because, one, was I think I naturally started to do that because I really wanted to try this vegan lifestyle, and I really wanted to mimic my friends relationship with food. And also, I realized that counting and exercise were just way too triggering for me. Like, going to the gym or going to an exercise class really triggered that desire in me to count calories or to just make sure I can burn as many calories as I possibly could.

I really didn’t want to get back into that place. One of the reasons was one, I still again, like I wanted to have this mindset around food that my vegan friend did, but also I just simply didn’t have the energy. I was still so exhausted from the Obama campaign because, oh my gosh, again, if you’ve ever worked with the campaign or the White House or just something like that, oh my gosh, it is just your life and I just still feel like I have to recover from it. Like, I watched the Democratic debate and I’m just like exhausted because I know how hard those staffers are working for those candidates. And I know how hard the candidates are working, so it’s really exhausting.

Anyways, one of the first things I did was I just completely stopped exercising and completely stopped counting calories. And in fact, I wasn’t really that concerned with what I ate or when I ate or even if I overeat, I wasn’t beating myself up. I just simply didn’t care. Now, at the time, I was living in Washington, D.C., as I said, and so I was just naturally walking a lot. And the two years that I was living there, I actually didn’t do any exercise during that time except, again, walking and I would easily get 15, 20,000 steps a day. Just walking to and from work, 30-minute walk each way, that was easily 6,000 steps plus walking to the grocery store or walking to get lunch or walking to meet my friend or whatever.

So it was very easy to get 15 to 20,000 steps a day. So I was naturally walking a lot and I was doing a lot of yoga. And occasionally, my roommate would drag me out on a run or a spin class who’s super into spin. But I just wasn’t really worried about it. And then what I think happened is I started to swing a little too far towards just not being in a place where happy meets healthy. And one thing that I teach my clients who are struggling with body dysmorphia, or extreme dieting, or just constant obsession around food and exercise in their body, is I always encourage a place where happy meets healthy.

Where does happy meet healthy?

Happy meets healthy is a place where recognizing that there are amazing nutrients and ways to nourish your body through eating vegetables and fruits and whole grains and certain meats and all that kind of good stuff. And then there’s a place where you’re too far on the healthy scale where you’re not allowing yourself to eat some of your favorite foods or what we call maybe fun foods or whatever. And then there’s a place where maybe it’s getting a little too happy. Where you are just eating any kind of food and not paying any attention to the health or the quality that food is providing for you. I definitely began to get a little too on the happy end of that spectrum.

For a long time, I actually believed that paying any attention to what kind of foods you’re eating, or any kind of exercise was “bad”. I remember thinking about people going to CrossFit or Orangetheory or training for a marathon, or any of that kind of stuff, I was thinking, man, those people must really hate their body because they are working out so hard, and I just feel sorry for them. Or people that would order a salad at the restaurant, I would judge them. I would think, man, they just must really hate their body because they’re making themselves eat a salad and not allowing themselves to eat what they really want.

What had happened is I had just swing way too far and I’m being way too far in my own life. I think everyone has a different definition of where happy means healthy. I think that’s totally fine. But for me, looking back, what I began to see is that or what I saw is that I just wasn’t feeling healthy in my body anymore. I wasn’t feeling energized, it was harder to wake up in the mornings. I just didn’t really feel like moving my body. I didn’t really feel like even walking my dog, going around the block, I didn’t feel like going on a run. I just kind of wanted to be, I don’t know, a lump on the couch.

I was reading some stuff recently on creating a healthier relationship and finding a place where healthy meets happy recently. And one thing I discovered is when you lived your life so far in one extreme of always dieting, always being aware of what you’re eating, always counting calories, always counting the calories that you burn in exercise or whatever it is, then sometimes it’s okay to go to the completely other side of the extreme, because you just need a total and complete break and finding a place that somewhere in the middle can still feel triggering. And it can be just one step until you get back into the extreme dieting or obsession over dieting.

What I realized is, I had spent a long time in that place of not worrying about what I ate, and especially as we moved out of D.C. and lived in Dallas and then Denver, and then California, is I wasn’t living in a city anymore. I wasn’t walking 20,000 steps every day. So I was gaining weight and for a while that was fine because, again, I wasn’t really obsessed about my weight. I don’t own a scale. I wasn’t weighing myself. But I was just beginning to feel not healthy. It hit me that I had just really moved to a place of more of the happy rather than the healthy meets happy.

That’s when I decided I wanted to swing the pendulum just somewhere in the middle, where I wanted to nourish my body with green smoothies and salads. But I also wanted to nourish my soul sometimes with chocolate cake. I wanted to move my body not because I wanted to count those calories so I could eat a [back 00:20:20] and chocolate cake or whatever. But I wanted to move my body so that I could get that endorphin rush and I know that it’s good for my body in other ways. It keeps me strong. Osteoporosis runs in my family, so doing weightlifting is really important for my long term health.

I’ve been going to Orangetheory for the past three months and like, every time I leave those frickin classes  after I get those 12 spot points, I feel high. I’m just like, oh my god, the world is awesome and I don’t care about the calories or like if it’s going to help me lose weight. I just want to be able to feel good in my body regardless of what the number is on the scale. So, I think the truth is, is for most people, we have to land somewhere in the middle. If you’ve been dieting your whole life or have suffered from an eating disorder, extreme dieting or body dysmorphia, you might need to swing all the way to the other side and not worry about dieting, not worrying about what you eat, not worrying about exercise just for a little bit, so that then you can swing back into the middle and recalibrate and find a place where on the happy meets healthy scale that feels good and in alignment with you.

I also don’t really refer to things as exercise or working out because that’s really triggering for me. I like to refer more to just moving my body. If I have a client that really loves going to the gym and really loves exercising, then like, great. You keep calling and exercising and keep going to the gym. But if that’s super triggering for you or you just like hate “working out” or hate exercising, then just call it moving your body. And how can you move your body in a way that feels at least somewhat pleasurable? It might just be dancing around your living room, it might be taking your dog for a walk, maybe it’s just going for a walk with a friend. Maybe it’s going for a walk with your favorite podcast.

There are so many benefits moving your body, and I had to get over this belief that any kind of exercise meant you hate your body and move into this belief instead of moving your body shows your body great love, and you’re supporting it to live a long life and as healthy as possible. I also don’t call food good or bad anymore. It’s all food. Some food nourishes my body, some food nourishes my soul. But all of those things nourish my life.

Four action steps you can take right now

I want to wrap this episode up with giving you three action steps you can take right away if you’re struggling with being on and off the diet train or you’re struggling with body confidence. 

The first thing is to allow yourself to eat whatever you want, and allow yourself to “workout or not”. Now, I give this assignment to my clients all the time who are struggling with body image, with dieting, with food. This feels really, really scary. And believe me, I completely understand why it feels scary. Because you think, well, if I allow myself to eat whatever I want, all I’m going to eat is cake or the potato chips or I’m never going to work out because I hate working out.

But here’s what I believe to be true and I’ve seen it over and over again in my life and the lives of my clients. And that is, the body will naturally crave balance. There’s one caveat to this. You can’t judge yourself. So if you wake up tomorrow and you are allowing yourself to eat whatever you want, to move your body or not, and let’s say you wake up tomorrow and you want to eat donuts, then you eat donuts. You can’t say, god, I’m such a pig. I’m eating donuts. It’s going to make me fat. I hate myself. If you go into that space, then you will keep eating the donuts because you’re going to feel like crap and then you’re going to want to eat your feelings, and that’s when the cycle can spiral and spiral especially out of control.

However, if you allow yourself to eat donuts and not exercise, maybe for like the next five days straight or whatever, at some point, you’re going to probably wake up like I did and think, I just don’t feel really good in my body. I don’t feel healthy. I actually am kind of craving a kale frickin salad or I actually want to take my dog on a walk because I’m craving some movement. I really believe this to be true. I know it sounds scary, believe me, trust me. I know it sounds scary to allow yourself to eat whatever you want or to not move or to move.

But if you can do this with zero judgment towards yourself, you will find balance. You will find that place where happy meets healthy. Where you allow yourself to binge Netflix on the couch and drinking a glass of wine sometimes, and working out or moving your body feels really fun and it feels energizing. Sometimes you will want to eat chocolate cake and sometimes you will want to eat a kale salad or whatever.

So the second action step is to write a love letter to your body. Now, this might feel a little sappy or maybe even a little eye-rolling. But I really encourage you to do this. If you don’t write a love letter to your body, then I encourage you to at least stand in front of the mirror naked and just go through all your major body parts and just give some gratitude. I mean, your frickin legs allow you to do what you do in your life. They allow you to get to work, they allow you to hang out with your friends or your breasts have fed children if you have children, and you’ve breastfed. Your shoulders and your arms allow you to do the work that you are meant to do in this world. Your head and your chin, I know double chins are like a sore spot. But all of that is where your brain is housed, and that is a huge part of what makes you, you.

So if you can just go through your body and just find something to be grateful for and what would your life be if you didn’t have a functioning brain or functioning legs or functioning arms or digestive issues or whatever it is, then it’s easier to see how much gratitude and appreciation you can have for it because of how dramatically your life would be if those areas everybody weren’t functioning the way that you wanted them to function. 

The third thing is to adorn your body in a way that makes you feel great. So this has been something that has been really fun for me over the past couple of years. Part of my experience of saying screw it to all eating healthy and exercising for those few years that I was talking about, also included me not really ever putting on makeup or doing my hair or dressing in a way that was fun for me. Now, there is definitely a gray area and you can get to a point where dressing in a certain way or putting makeup on or doing your hair can feel a little vain, or feel like well this is what society wants me to do because it’s what women are supposed to do to be pleasing or to be beautiful for a man.

I do want you to be mindful of that. Like, there is a great area, you don’t have to go that far over. But what would just feel really good for you. Like, when you put on red lipstick, does that make you feel like sassiest fucking alive? Or does it make you just feel like, why am I wearing red lipstick? If you love it and it really just makes you feel amazing, then put on red frickin lipstick. Or if wearing a certain piece of jewelry or a favorite top or a favorite dress, you love it and you love the way it fits on your body, and it just feels really fun or it just feels really expressive, then awesome. Then wear it or do the thing. And notice if it becomes like, well, this makes my boobs look great and some guys can be really into that. Then that might be a sign that maybe you’re adorning your body a little bit too far.

Just explore what it feels like to just have fun. Taking care of your body, dressing your body and the sense of that like it’s a temple. And so if you imagine like a Buddhist temple, those places are kept immaculately clean and beautiful. When I was in Bali, there would just be people scrubbing the floors every day and there are beautiful plants and landscaping and all that kind of stuff. And it’s not in vain. They do it because it’s a sacred place for those people. So if you can think about your body in that way, that you take care of your body and you dress it and you make it beautiful for you because it is your sacred temple. It is the only body that you’re going to get in this lifetime, that can completely change and shift how you look at yourself. Do it from a place of self-love, rather than trying to look a certain way of what society thinks you should look like or just doing it for vain reasons.

Okay, I’m going to give you a bonus action step and that is when you are dating, lead with loving your body. Now imagine this. If you loved your body and you felt great at it, no matter what size it is, what are the things that you would do? How would you show up differently online? How would you show up differently on a date? What are the specific action steps you would do differently?

Literally, I want you to write that down. Maybe you would actually tell someone that you enjoyed hanging out with them and you want to see them again. Maybe you would agree to FaceTime with someone or Skype with someone before you actually met them on a date. Maybe you would wear an outfit that you love, even though it feels maybe like a little bit edgy to you.

Just write that list down and whatever it is, I want you to start doing that because you’re going to be leading from a place where your body is awesome and you love it no matter what, and then I want you to notice how these potential partners respond.

People are probably going to be really into that because people just love people who exude confidence and if you get feedback from someone about anything around your size or your appearance or someone who maybe feels intimidated by your confidence and wants to make you feel smaller, then that’s a really good sign that this person isn’t the right person for you.

If you’re leading from a place of “Oh, I hope he likes me. Is he going to think I’m pretty?” Then you’re already feeling small and so for someone to make you feel smaller, that only kind of feels normal, and maybe just the way dating is supposed to go and it’s going to be much harder to see those issues and those red flags.

So lead from a place of loving your body. What does that mean? What does that mean you’ll actually do differently and then to see how people respond and if you notice people trying to make you feel smaller, then that as a huge red flag to cut off that person or that relationship.

All right, my dear, those are your four action steps to begin making peace with your body and with food. I hope they were helpful. I would love to know what really resonated with you and I would love to know what action steps you are going to take in the next couple of days. Go ahead and send me a DM. I’m @veronicaegrant and let me know or if not on Instagram, send me an email. Let me know what you took away from this episode and what step you are going to take, and I can’t wait to hear from you. I will see you next week with a brand new coaching episode on the Love Life Connection.

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