Total Health in Midlife Episode #160: Ex-Good Girl with Sara Fisk

Ex-Good Girl with Sara Fisk

As I navigated the waves of midlife, I found myself shedding the layers of a people-pleaser, much like the leaves fall from the trees in autumn. It’s a transformation that many women can relate to, and it’s exactly why I invited Sara Fisk, the voice behind the Ex-Good Girl Podcast, to join me in a heart-to-heart conversation about this significant phase of life. 

We explored the often rocky terrain of midlife and women’s health, discussing how to practice self-care authentically and how to deal with the sometimes dismissive medical community when it comes to menopause. Our chat brought to light the need for self-awareness as we navigate the societal shifts and personal changes that come with this stage in life.

Our relationship with food is as complex as the most intricate of dances, and Sara and I took a moment to step into the rhythm of this topic. We shared our personal stories, revealing the cultural pressures that have shaped our views on food and body image. 

Through our conversation, it became evident that our dietary choices are reflections of how we care for ourselves, and we should make them based on our satisfaction, not on the desire to conform to external expectations. We peeled back the layers of emotion that often accompany our eating habits, emphasizing the importance of setting boundaries for a balanced and mindful approach to both our plates and our feelings.

Wrapping up our heartfelt dialogue, we turned our attention to the power of self-advocacy and the critical role of embracing personal desires when it comes to our health and wellness. Sara and I underscored the importance of having a supportive community, especially as we face the challenges and transitions of midlife. 

We shared how coaching can serve as a guiding light through these times, offering encouragement and a space for celebrating personal victories. Leaving our listeners with gratitude, we hoped to inspire and support everyone on their unique journeys toward health and self-discovery.

About Sara Fisk

Sara Bybee Fisk is a Master Certified Coach and Instructor who teaches women how to tame the rampant people-pleasing, perfectionism, and codependency that is causing them so much frustration and resentment. 

She is an anxious optimist and born-again feminist who listens to more books than she sits down to read. She loves a good hike, good dark chocolate, and good conversations. 

Her big dreams include learning to sail and to sing and dance like JLo and helping thousands of women create the big, juicy lives they want to be living. She is a wife and mom of 5 and she enjoys those roles most of the time. 

Chapter Summaries

Navigating Midlife and Women’s Health (0:00:03) 

Midlife, self-care, and breaking free from people-pleasing habits are discussed, along with the transformative potential of this life phase.

Developing a Healthy Relationship With Food (0:14:03)

Food, love, and body image are intertwined in our culture, influenced by societal pressures and misconceptions about labeling foods.

The Relationship Between Food and Emotions (0:18:10) 

Nature’s impact on our emotional well-being, setting boundaries with food and people, and the journey towards self-awareness.

Exploring Self-Awareness and Embracing Personal Desires (0:28:48)

Self-compassion, body acceptance, and setting boundaries for personal empowerment about food and emotions.

The Importance of Self-Identity and Self-Care (0:36:16) 

Midlife transitions for women involve identity crisis, societal pressures, and the importance of self-love and setting boundaries.

Exploring Relationships and Midlife Health (0:42:05)

Nature’s impact on self-advocacy, people-pleasing, and food in midlife transitions, and the importance of boundaries, self-care, and asking for help.

Supporting Health and Wellness Goals (0:48:50)

Prioritizing health, having a support system, and the benefits of coaching for achieving dreams and tackling challenges.

Are you loving the podcast, but arent sure where to start? click here to get your copy of the Done with Dieting Podcast Roadmap Its a fantastic listening guide that pulls out the exact episodes that will get you moving towards optimal health.

If you want to take the work we’re doing here on the podcast and go even deeper, you need to join the Feel Good Sisterhood - my group coaching program for women in midlife who are done with dieting, but still want to feel good! The Feel Good Sisterhood is open for enrollment, so click here to discover if group coaching is a right fit for you and your goals.

I am so excited to hear what you all think about the podcast – if you have any feedback, please let me know! You can leave me a rating and review in Apple Podcasts, which helps me create an excellent show and helps other women who want to get off the diet roller coaster find it, too.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode

  • Explore the transformative freedom on the other side, where midlife women rediscover desires and challenge societal norms.
  • Uncover the intertwining of societal expectations, emotions, and self-perception, leading to a healthier relationship with food.
  • Understand the societal impact on our perception of food, challenge the concept of “good” and “bad” foods, and learn to build a relationship with food that aligns with personal well-being.
  • Dive into the impact of emotions on our eating habits, acknowledge the role of food in coping, and explore strategies for a healthier relationship with both emotions and nourishment.
  • Embrace self-discovery as a beautiful journey, gaining insights into your desires, boundaries, and preferences, ultimately leading to a more authentic and fulfilling life.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Full Episode Transcript:

Elizabeth: I think about having a holiday party, and then you’re in the kitchen alone cleaning up and you’re like, Oh my God, I need five minutes to myself. And as you’re in there, you’re just like devouring the carrot cake that you had for dinner.

Then, you feel terrible about it because it wasn’t what you planned or what you wanted to do. Right? And so, often, we don’t advocate for ourselves. And so, we run to food in order to fix that need.

Sara: Yeah. When what we need is somebody else to get their ass in here and help with these dishes because this is not my job to do the dishes for everyone.

Welcome to Total Health and Midlife, the podcast for women embracing the pivotal transformation from the daily grind to the dawn of a new chapter. I’m Elizabeth, your host and fellow traveler on this journey.

As a Life and Health Coach, I am intimately familiar with the changes and challenges we face during this stage. Shifting careers, changing relationships, our new bodies, and redefining goals and needs as we start to look to the future and ask, what do I want?

In this podcast, we’ll explore physical, mental, and emotional wellness, offering insights and strategies to achieve optimal health through these transformative years.

Yes, it’s totally possible.

Join me in this amazing journey of body, mind, and spirit, where we’re not just improving our health, but transforming our entire lives.

Hey everyone, welcome back to the Total Health in Midlife podcast. I am your host, Elizabeth Sherman, and today I have a treat for you.

So, first, have you ever felt like midlife is a little bit of a whirlwind? Like one minute you’re juggling family, career, and what’s for dinner, and the next you’re wondering who turned up the heat with all these hot flashes and where you’re reading glasses that disappeared again? Well, you’re not alone. And that’s exactly what we’re diving into today.

So, today I have someone special on the podcast. Sarah Fisk is a coach who helps women stop people pleasing. And it’s the host of “The Ex-Good Girl podcast.”

This episode is a little bit different because it’s not an interview per se, but a conversation between us. And we talk about all things related to food, how we take care of ourselves as women in midlife and the intersection between that, and people pleasing. It’s an amazing conversation.

So, what gold nuggets will you walk away with today? Well, first, we’re going to show you how to embrace those midlife changes without letting the scale define you. We’re going to talk about how to stay relevant even though society tells women in midlife that we’re not.

And then, we’re also going to talk about food, but we’re not going to talk about it in the way that you might expect. We’re talking about how people pleasing impacts how we care for ourselves and specifically how we make choices in our food.

And finally, we’re going to talk about the secret sauce for self-awareness that can transform the way you think about your health and your life. And spoiler alert, it’s not just about what you eat, or how much you exercise.

So, are you ready to join us in this fantastic conversation? Let’s get into it and discover how to take control of your health in midlife.

Sara: Okay, this is going to be a fun, great conversation. Elizabeth Sherman, you’re one of my favorite people.

Elizabeth: Well, you’re one of my favorite people. I love seeing you. I love talking to you.

Sara: We’re setting this conversation up so that we can both release it on our podcast. Will you please introduce yourself for my people who need to know who you are?

Elizabeth: Yes. And then, I want you to introduce yourself for my people who need to know who you are, for sure. I am Elizabeth Sherman. I am a Life and Health Coach for Women in Midlife. And I say, Health Coach because I recently moved from focusing on weight loss to general health.

And we can have a conversation about that, but specifically the woman that I work with. Women in midlife have so much ‘shiz’ coming at them, hormones, changing relationships with their partner, their family structures are changing, their kids are moving out, their relationships with friends are changing, their parents , and their careers, all of that is coming at them. And they’re also asking what is my purpose, right?

And that’s a lot of what you deal with, Sarah. And so, I work with women so that their health doesn’t get in the way of whatever it is that they want to do in that next phase of life.

Sara: Well, you and I had a lot of conversations just because that’s exactly where I am navigating, changing hormones, and ADHD diagnosis. I have all the things you’ve said changing, I became a coach five, six years ago. My older three children have left the nest and it does seem like a period of constant change. You know, things, especially with health.

So, I’m excited to have this conversation, not just for me but you are right. The women that I work with, I teach women how to stop people pleasing, perfectionating, and getting stuck in codependency. So that at any stage they are in their life that is not getting in their way.

They are not saying yes when they mean no. They are not abandoning themselves in relationships, but they’re finding their voice and really being able to show up as who they are. They know what they want, they know how to get it. They know how to show up and be themselves in the world and really enjoy that experience. So, I think we’re a good pair for this discussion today.

Elizabeth: Well, yeah. And as you were talking, I’m actually kind of on the other side of menopause. Like I’ve made it through. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately about how as younger women, we kind of put on the brakes, right? And we put our hands out and we’re like, I don’t want to go through perimenopause. I don’t want to go through midlife. Like we resist it.

And now, that I’m on the other side, and I think because there are so many changes, however, all of those changes really create a freedom on the other side. So, I’m talking to all of the listeners out there who are like, Oh my God, this is like the worst. Everything is coming at me right now.

Look at it as a place of growth. Because on the other side, you get to rediscover what you want. And if we could band together as women in midlife, we could totally overthrow the patriarchy. Like we are the underdogs here. And so, we can like completely change what midlife means, what it means to be a midlife woman. Yeah, I’m excited.

Sara: It’s so interesting because I think what stops us is this real lack of knowledge about our bodies. This lack of medical knowledge in professionals. I mean, I am trying to figure out hormones. I went to see my primary care doctor last week. And he and I have enjoyed my relationship with him. I feel like he’s a competent doctor. He said, well, we’ll just put you on some estrogen, and just kind of see how it goes.

And I said, what do you mean see how it goes? He’s like, well, you know, we’re just going to have to try a bunch of things. And this reaction of like, Oh my gosh, there are multiple medicines out there for men to have erections.

And it’s like, not hit or miss. They know exactly what to do. It has been the product of all this research and time spent into men’s pleasure. And yet, it just seems like the women’s hormone part of things is like this scattershot approach to well, let’s just throw a bunch of things at the wall and see what sticks.

And meanwhile, the symptoms I’m having. And so, that the lack of knowledge, first of all, I think me about my own body. But also in the medical world, women’s health and hormones just don’t seem to have been given a lot of airtime so that we have like real accurate information.

Now, I think that is changing. But here I am in this moment. So, what are your thoughts about that? I just talked a lot.

Elizabeth: Yeah, no, no, no. I have a lot of thoughts about that. First is that it’s important to understand that women’s bodies were intentionally excluded from medical research until the 1950s. Because our bodies were considered to be quote unquote, too complicated with hormones.

That being said, women’s health is so new still. And many doctors still function, and I don’t want to get too much into the menopause thing because we have other things that we want to talk about. But Doctors are still working off of tests and results that really are not current.

So, for many women, and I’m sure yourself included. You go to your doctor, and you say, I’m having these symptoms and your doctor kind of blows you off and says, Oh, it’s normal, it’s just part of midlife. Or even more frustrating, the tests show that you’re not in perimenopause or menopause yet. So, there’s nothing I can do about it. It can feel very disempowering.

So, we really have a long way to go with that. And it makes perfect sense because men are the ones who are holding the purse strings when it comes to medical research, and they’re not interested in women from at least a biological standpoint, right? And so, they’re like women’s hormones, ahh, who wants to pay for that? Right?

It’s now starting to change. However, when I work with clients on their hormones, I used to ask them to talk to their mothers, or their grandmothers, or their aunts, or whoever in their family. But then, I started realizing, well, they have even less information than we do today. Your mom probably knew about hot flashes. Maybe she knew about insomnia.

But what did she really know about her other, there are like 85 different symptoms of menopause.

Sara: Wow.

Elizabeth: And so, that can last over 20 years.

Sara: Yeah.

Elizabeth: And to segue probably into the conversation that we’re going to have. One of those symptoms is weight gain. And so, many women will try to fight that symptom of weight gain through dieting because that’s what we knew.

However, women’s bodies in menopause and perimenopause are very different than they used to be when they were in their 30s or even their 20s. Not to mention that all of the diet, not all, it’s changing. Most of the diet information that we grew up with, the weight loss information that we grew up with was based on studies of college aged men.

Women in midlife don’t have the same hormonal balance as college aged men. So, what’s happening is we’re trying to do this eat less, move more thing. And what it’s doing is it’s creating more stress and imbalance in our bodies. And therefore, throwing our entire bodies out of whack.

So, some women will experience more brain fog. They’ll have more the rebound effect when it comes to eating, because you can only eat so much less. And cravings will get bigger, they’ll have more insomnia because their body is stressed out.

Sara: Yeah. And that’s kind of lens squarely where I am just in my own personal experience. So, what is the lens through which you look through to kind of talk about all of this health and particular weight loss?

Elizabeth: Yeah. So, first of all, we kind of have to back up and really talk about diet culture because we have grown up in a culture where losing weight is better. That somehow, we have expected that as a 55 year old woman, that I should look like I did when I was 30 years old. Like who decided that?

And so, we really need to look at our relationship with food. We need to look at our relationship with our body. We need to look at patriarchy. That women are taught that looking good isn’t more important than our brains. That looking good is more important than health. That if we’re lucky as young women, we will attract a successful man. And men are taught that if they’re successful, they’ll attract an attractive woman, right?

And so, it’s all steeped in this weird thing of we need to look a certain way. We need to look the way that society expects us to look.

Sara: It’s so insidious, I was talking with my husband about this very thing, just that a woman no matter what she says or does with her life, there’s always the added judgment of her body. What she’s wearing, whether or not her physical features line up with kind of this socially agreed upon idea of what beautiful is or isn’t.

And I was looking up online for him just example after example of brilliant women criticized for wearing the wrong thing. Smart, articulate women who have their size mocked. And because we have just grown up in it, I don’t think we realize just how pervasive the belief is that our body is bad or wrong. I love all of the kind of talking about it that I hear going on now.

But I think this is kind of where our work intersects and that I look at the female experience, human socialized as females through the lens of what creates safety and belonging. When we are younger, is the obstacle to it when we’re older. And that when we’re younger, it is essential that we please other people, right?

Because we can’t take care of ourselves. We need them to care for us, help us, nurture us, teach us, all the things. But then, when we get older, this pleasing aspect or this perfectionism aspect actually gets in the way of us living that kind of free life that we want. And I see our food and body obsession the same thing.

In that when we’re younger, I mean, what 11 year old girl out there? 11 years old is when I have my first memory of, I’m standing in line on the playground. I looked down at my stomach. I was wearing a purple band t shirt. I still remember it. And I was just looking at how my stomach like pushed against the fabric of the shirt. And I remember looking to my left and to my right at other stomachs and like, does everybody’s stomach do this? Is it just my stomach?

And so, we’re kind of raised in this culture of trying to make our bodies look like a certain thing. But then, that very pursuit is what gets in the way later in life of having a healthy, loving relationship with something that we need, which is food. Just like we need other people. We also need food.

Elizabeth: Yeah. Yeah. And not to mention that there are so many cultures who we give to the people that we love through food, right? Mothers will give their children like, if you’re feeling sick, what can I do for you? Do you want chicken soup? Do you want orange juice? What can I do for you?

And so, yeah, it totally makes sense that we have this balled up relationship with food and with love and with emotions. And plus, no one really teaches us how to have a good relationship with food. Maybe if you’re lucky, you see it modeled in your parent. I think that that can probably be a little bit more frequent when we’re talking about alcohol.

That some people have a healthy relationship with alcohol modeled by their parent. But I think that dieting and food is so interconnected in our culture that it’s more difficult to see that in the family structure.

Sara: It’s interesting. My mom, never once, I never saw her diet. I never saw her hair, like count. If She ever went on a diet, I knew nothing about it. We didn’t talk a lot about bodies. So, I think it swung the other way where we kind of just didn’t talk about it. She never commented on my size, never. Like, I don’t remember one single conversation with her about being thin or is that being more beautiful?

It was almost like it just didn’t exist. But still, I remember buying my first Dexatrim diet pills, you know, from Fox Drugs, probably 14. So, for me, it didn’t even really matter that it wasn’t a part of my conversation with my mom. But she did use food as like, love, let me make you something. Are you hungry? Let me feed you. It’s unavoidable. It’s just the air we breathe.

Elizabeth: Absolutely. Absolutely. And yeah, so for any listeners out there who have young children who are like, I want to shelter my child from this, you can’t, unfortunately. There’s actually a really interesting stat that Fiji, I think it was. Did not have television or at least American television.

And in 1980, they brought on, I think it was Baywatch or something like that. And within, I want to say one to three years, many teenage girls started dieting. So, we see it on TV, we see it in our culture. It’s almost impossible to avoid. So yeah.

Sara: So, the conversation that you and I are trying to have is not exhaustive or authoritative, but it’s what we have found to be helpful as we’re talking about healthy relationship with food. And healthy just means it’s one that you like the results of. Like that is my definition of healthy. When you have a relationship and you look at the results and you like the results of that, I think that’s healthy. How do you define healthy?

Elizabeth: Well, first of all, I think it’s important to say that there are no good foods and bad foods. We’ve been taught that there are good and bad foods. That brownies are somehow bad, and that broccoli is good. That when we think about good foods, we think of broccoli, chicken breasts, spinach, all of those things. And then, when we think of bad foods, we think of French fries and pizza and everything that’s desirable, right?

Everything that we’ve also has been marketed to us as being, um, fun foods, right? So like going to a party and you have pizza or you have burgers at, you know, cookouts and things like that. So. What I think is actually really important and what my clients really struggle with when we first talk about food is the idea that brownies are actually the same as broccoli.

And they’re like, but Elizabeth, that can’t possibly be true. That if brownies are the same as broccoli, then I’m going to eat brownies all the time. And no, you’re not. Because you can have one brownie and then two brownies, and then after a certain point, you’re not going to feel good anymore, and you’re going to start to crave the broccoli.

And so, it’s really about understanding how much of each of these foods does my body need in order to feel good moving forward. And so, as we move into midlife, we start to notice that different foods make us feel differently.

So, if you have brownies before you go to bed, you might notice that you have trouble sleeping. Definitely, I notice with alcohol. How about you?

Sara: Yeah, it ruins me. It ruins my sleep for sure.

Elizabeth: Yeah. And so, when we can approach food from the standpoint of what makes me feel good, not in the moment. But in an hour, in two hours, tomorrow, next week, next month. Then, we can start to build the relationship with food that we want. And I love your analogy of food relationship. Can you share that?

Sara: Yeah. I think it’s exactly the same with people. Like how much of a certain person is good for me. How much of a certain activity is good for me. People pleasers get really caught up in doing a lot of things for a lot of people all the time as a way of being valuable, earning love, feeling connected and feeling safe. And that makes a lot of sense because that’s what we were taught to do.

But when we come into adulthood and we have some more control over the circumstances in our life, where we live, our work, being financially independent. That is a fantastic time to start looking at the amount of time that I spend with certain people that maybe it doesn’t make me feel good. It’s like eating nothing but brownies all day.

I go to bed, and I feel gross. I feel heavy. I feel sad. I feel disconnected from me because I’ve given so much of myself to them. And so, I like looking at my relationship with food exactly like I look at my relationship with people in my life. How much of this person is good for me? Under what circumstances?

Sometimes I might have a lot more availability, if it’s somebody that I want a relationship with and I can have more of them. And sometimes I need less, like boundaries around and limitations can be for me, just as much as we’re kind of taught to see kind of boundaries and limitations as negative sometimes. Like having boundaries about what I say yes to, who I say yes to. I think there’s a lot of correlation there with food.

Elizabeth: Absolutely. Like I’m just thinking of people in my life and there are people who I go to when I want to feel accepted, and listened, to and cradled. But I can’t spend all of my time with those people because it’s a little too intense. And then, I have people that I go to when I just want to blow off steam. They’re kind of like the candy. Right?

And they’re not like, I mean, they’re good friends, but I know that I’m not going to call them at three o’clock in the morning when I need to go to the hospital. Right? Or if you’re on the side of a road or something like that.

Sara: Yeah. Yeah.

Elizabeth: But you need those people in your life and neither are good, and neither are bad. Right?

Sara: Absolutely right. And I think for me, knowing what that is has come from first learning to listen to myself. I think for a long time, I used food to not listen to myself. I used food to turn off uncomfortable emotions. I used food to distract myself from hard situations.

And I think I even used food to kind of keep myself numbed from things that were happening. There was a period of time in my marriage where it was really, really difficult.

And I remember, I made microwave s’mores. I would put a graham cracker, a marshmallow, and I would stick it in the microwave because who wants to build a fire for one s’more and stick some chocolate in it. It would get all nice and melty. And I would eat three or four microwave s’mores a day just to have like something good, something sweet, something satisfying because it didn’t feel like anything else was.

And the first thing that I had to do to just figure out what do I want in my life is to come to myself first and start listening to me. And that is a hard thing to do in a culture and society that doesn’t teach girls to do that. It teaches them to listen to everybody outside of themselves. So that’s kind of where I feel like things shifted or changed for me. What about you?

Elizabeth: Yeah. I have this saying that if food is the best part of your day, we need to fix your day, right? Because so many of us have, I used to run to food all the time. And I remember when our coach said, I can take the desire for food away from you. I was like, I don’t know if I want that.

But it’s so fascinating now being on the other side of that where a cookie is like, I am one of those people now. I thought that you were born with the ability to eat just one cookie. I didn’t know that it was something that you could learn. And so, to be able to do that, because the rest of my life is actually so much more joyous.

Like that food isn’t the part that I look the most forward to. But I had a very similar experience as you did, that my mom was an emotional eater. And so, that’s what I saw. I witnessed her like emotionally eating. And so, that’s what I grew up with. Yeah.

And we’re never going to get rid of emotional eating. What I think that most of us want to do is we want to stop the unconscious emotional eating. Or the feeling like, I don’t know what was happening with you, whether you were conscious about eating those s’mores or not. But not having the craving where it feels like that is overtaking your ability to make a good decision. Yeah.

Sara: Absolutely. And I think if I could kind of go back and talk to myself, I would say like, Sarah, you are using food to try and fix problems that food won’t fix. So, what is the actual problem here? The actual problem is I don’t know how to tell my husband how I’m feeling because I don’t really know how I’m feeling. It’s just this angry, sad, you know, happy mixture that I don’t really know very well.

And so, having a s’more which at the time, I have zero judgment about that. And I have zero judgment now when I turn to food because I want to feel something good now. What I do instead is I just know that I need to just come back to me. What’s happening here. Is it a problem food will fix?

Even if the food tastes good and I still want to eat it, I have no problem with that because what I’ve gotten so much better at is listening to the emotional side of my experience, what my emotions are trying to tell me, the information that they have for me. And I know that I’m going to do both. I’m going to have the cookie if I want the cookie, and I’m going to address the pain or the sadness or the loneliness.

I think when my three older kids who have, you know, since moved away and they’re working and going to school, I had a lot of sadness. That I think was wrapped up in some of the eating that I was doing and just befriending my emotions has been the thing that has given me the compass to know.

Is this something that I’m trying to solve with food? Do I want a cookie? If so, fine. But I also need to just listen to what my body is trying to tell me.

Elizabeth: Yeah. Like I spent most of my young adult life completely numb. I prided myself on the fact that I wasn’t a crier. And since I’ve been in your ‘Stop People Pleasing’ program, I have found myself crying so much, which we could talk about later. But I realized that I was trying to cut out the negative emotions through eating or denying them.

When I started waking up to the fact that I had emotions, they were such a tight tangled bundle of emotions. I was like, I don’t even know what I’m feeling. Like my brain was completely going offline and I felt frustrated, and angry, and I would explode, I would react instead of respond.

And that was right around the time that I realized, okay, something is wrong here. I need to figure this out. And it was actually quite around the time that I started paying attention to why was I eating.

And really asking myself, okay, so I want to eat. I’m standing in the pantry right now looking for food. I’m not hungry. Why am I here? Is it because of the time of day? Is it because I’m feeling an emotion? What is actually happening right now?

And so, it’s taken me a little bit to get to where you are with accepting and loving each emotion. But at least the awareness piece was super important for me.

Sara: Awareness is just where it’s like such a self-investigative process. I love Glennon Doyle says, you’re both the detective and the mystery. You are the mystery that you’re trying to also figure out and unraveling, I think ourselves, it’s such a beautiful process. What I have found for myself is that around every corner, I’m endlessly fascinating.

Why I do, what I do. I think, what I think. And as I have given that some air time, and as I have stopped at the same time, I think it’s a kind of a two-step process. Stopping the judgment. I used to beat myself up endlessly for what I would eat or what I would not eat. I think that’s common.

And to stop that judgment voice at the same time as increasing awareness and to just fully understand, if not love. Like, Oh, I’m sad because this happened just yesterday. I gave my son a haircut. He didn’t like it. He thought I had messed it up. I felt this surge of anger. And then, I thought, why am I getting angry at this 15 year old kid.

It’s because I don’t want to be told that I did something wrong, right? It’s sensitivity to being told that I’m wrong, even about a haircut and then not wanting him to go to school and be embarrassed that his mom cut his hair wrong. Like, that the story that we tell them.

So, I love the process of coming to ourselves with this openness about who we are and why we feel what we feel. Because one of the things that we do get to unravel is why am I eating what I’m eating if it has nothing to do with solving this actual problem? And for me, health, you can be healthy at any size.

There’s an actual mountain of data called the health at any size movement that has nothing to do with the number on the scale. But what I find health to be about is knowing my boundaries and limitations with people, with activities, with service.

As women, we’ve really been socialized to give, and give, and give, and give, and give, and to include food in that. Boundaries, limitations that are for me has really just been a game changer in terms of how we look at food.

Elizabeth: Yeah. Yeah. And one of the arguments against health with every size is that we decouple or we couple, rather. That your size is a direct reflection of your health. And that’s actually not true. And what’s actually more important is not so much your size, but what it is that you are eating.

So, one example of that is that Dairy products can cause knee pain. And so, oftentimes, people will say, well, if I lose weight, then I will stop the knee pain. Well, maybe all we need to do is change your diet so that you’re eating foods that aren’t causing inflammation in your body. Now, that may relate to a lower weight, but it might not.

And so, something that we were talking about earlier was that I’m trying to lose weight for my health is a very trendy new way of saying, I want to lose weight. And how we know that that’s a lie. Because if you don’t lose weight, but you do change your diet, and you start exercising, and sleeping well, and doing all of the things that are good at that make you feel good, but you don’t lose any weight and you’re still frustrated. Then, we know that there’s something else going on there. Right?

Sara: Yeah. Or if you do lose some weight and it doesn’t feel like enough. Or if you do get your health numbers, I do think it matters to pay attention to A1C and blood glucose and to avoid diabetes. But if you avoid that and you still want to keep tweaking and doing things.

Or if you do lose some weight and you just find other things about your body that you want to fix or change, I think it’s just kind of this never ending. If you are going to be looking outside of yourself for the markers of what is beautiful, what is sexy, what looks good. It is a never ending, merry go round of new ideas.

And so, I think coming home and coming internal is really the only unchanging experience that we can create for ourselves that we can trust. Because I now know what feels good in my body. I now know what food feels good in my body. I now know when something is quote unquote off, right? And maybe it’s something that I ate. Maybe it’s how I’m feeling. I know how to distinguish the two.

And that means I have the quote unquote problem, the right problem to solve. It’s not even a problem. I know what issue to work on. Having more words that just make it sound like it’s bad. But see, I don’t consider emotions bad. So, if I’m angry, I just need to let myself be angry and process my anger. I don’t think it’s a problem. If I want a brownie, I just need to eat a brownie.

And the judgment has helped it become such a process of all my own, that it feels so distinct from looking outside of me. What do you think I should eat? How do you think my body should look? Do you think I’m pretty? Do you think I’m skinny enough? It’s a completely different experience.

Elizabeth: Well, and something that you mentioned earlier that I just want to come back to is something that’s been really helpful in your program, ‘Stop People Pleasing’ has been waking up to what it is that I want. Because so many women, we don’t know what we want. And we don’t know why we make the decisions that we do make. We’re not really clued into that.

And so, I think that waking up to that, and really asking myself, why do I make the decisions that I do when it comes to food or even my body. And what I’m going to wear, or how I’m going to style my hair, or any of it can be so revealing. And do you like your reasons for doing that?

Sara: Yeah. It’s something we never stop to do is investigate our reasons and make sure we like them. What have been the big things for you in the Stop People Pleasing program?

Elizabeth: I think that that is the biggest one. Like, what is it that I really want? So, I have a couple of podcasts episodes already that are about people pleasing and eating. And I realized a while ago, before I started coaching, or when I was in the middle of coaching, that in my journey to improve my relationship with food that I really had to advocate for myself when it came to what it was that I wanted to eat.

And I think that so many women don’t do that. That they want to be considered low maintenance. At least I know that I did. That I felt like I should be able to eat like a 13 year old boy and at the same time have the body of a Victoria’s Secret model. And then, I got resentful with my body when it wasn’t doing what it was quote unquote supposed to do, which was be lean and beautiful and everything else.

But I’ve now been able to take that, what do I want and apply it to all the other areas of my life. And even like my business and in my relationship with my partner. Like just those little, tiny things that were like, Oh, it’s not that big of a deal, but in the grand scheme of things, it becomes a big deal. Right? That’s been huge.

Sara: And the big deal is knowing who you are, and what you want and how to get more of that in your life. I think because of all the changes that happen in midlife, especially if you are a woman who has had children. If you are a woman who has had even like a career that has taken a lot of your time and attention.

When those things start to shift and change, the most common thing I hear from women who have had children or going through career changes without the career or the children, I don’t even know who I am. Like, that’s just what I do all day. I don’t even know what I want. I don’t even know what my preferences are. What would I do with a day off? What are my hobbies? What do I enjoy?

And so, I think you’re right that who am I and what do I want is a question that seems so fundamental, but a lot of us don’t know.

Elizabeth: Well, that’s because we’re told by society what we are supposed to be. We are supposed to be nice. We’re supposed to be the good mother, the good daughter, the good employee, the good boss. Like we’re supposed to exists for other people. Like I hate the oxygen mask analogy, because it tells us that we have to put our own oxygen mask on. We have to be healthy, so that we can help other people be healthy.

But no, you are a living human being that exists, so you deserve self-care. Think about the way that you think about yourself, if your daughter were to think about that way, herself that way, it would break your heart.

So, you deserve what it is that you want because you do. You are worthy.

Sara: Yeah. What is something that feels possible for you now that didn’t feel possible before being in Stop People Pleasing?

Elizabeth: Oh, you know, I have been on this Stop People Pleasing journey for actually a couple of years now. Like being in the program, I started my own journey. Gosh, I think it was about two years ago, when I didn’t want, I’ll just say it, men to hug me when I didn’t want to be hugged. Like when you’re leaving a party and you’re saying goodbye and people are like, Oh, let me hug you and kiss you. I’m like, no! I’m not a hugger anyway.

But then, to have this weird man do it, just really grossed me out. And so, that was my foray into stopping people pleasing. What it’s really given me is the ability to not feel bad, to not take on other people’s emotions. We talked about enmeshment, so really de mesh myself from other people’s emotions. I don’t know how to say that. Yeah, like not taking other people’s reactions as my problem.

Sara: And I think it should be mentioned, you live in a place where hugging and kissing is a cultural expectation, right? It’s not just a few weirdos doing it, it’s everyone. Because it’s part of the culture where you live. And so, I love that you said to not take on the reactions of other people as something about you. That’s a hard skill as someone socialized as a woman, and especially in a place where it’s just such a part of the culture.

Elizabeth: Yeah. It’s really been empowering, and you know, ultimately, there are a lot of people who are like, yeah, go you. And there are some that don’t get it. That’s okay. Maybe eventually they will. I’m willing to wait.

Sara: What I love is just deciding for yourself, this is what I want or this is what I do not want. And just because I want it, or don’t want it is enough.

Elizabeth: Yeah. Well, and I think that it’s also really important, especially if there’s anyone listening who has kids who they’re like, well, I can’t have what I want because I have to take care of these people in my house. And it’s not about saying this is what I want and then being selfish. It’s just acknowledging that this is what I want, and this is what I want for the people that I love.

So, two questions that I really like to ask within my practice is what would you do if you loved yourself? And then, how do I want to show up in this relationship? And why those two questions are important is because ‘ what would I do if I loved myself,’ at least answers the question of ‘ what do I want?” And then, ‘how do I want to show up in the relationship?’ Answers the question of ” how do I want to show love for the people that I’m in relationship with?”

Sara: I love that you put it that way. When I talk to women, typically, their kids need are higher than their needs. You can’t see me, but my left hand is high. And then, my right hand is about six inches below. And that’s the typical relationship in which most women’s needs exist relative to other people’s needs.

And when I talk about not people pleasing anymore, many women think that I’m suggesting their needs go over everyone else’s. And that their needs are more important than everyone else’s. And it kind of activates this fear of being called selfish, which is the worst thing that a woman can be.

And what I’m advocating is equal. Right? That my needs are not more important than yours, not less important either. Sometimes I choose me, sometimes I choose you. And I think there’s some really great analogy to food there too. It’s like all food is just food. There’s not good food. There’s not bad food. Sometimes I choose a brownie, sometimes I choose broccoli.

When I like my reasons, and I know what those reasons are, I think the same thing applies to relationships when we’re really learning to eliminate the type of pleasing that we don’t like the results of. It’s investigating our reasons and then being willing to feel the uncomfortable emotion as you have had to feel. When you decline the hug and kiss, when it’s culturally expected.

Yeah, there’s some discomfort there that you have to sit with because it’s consistent with what you want though, so the price is worth it.

Elizabeth: Yeah. And we were talking on another conversation about the different layers that people pleasing, and food get intermixed. And I think that what happens is when we abandon ourselves so frequently, and we don’t give ourselves what we need, we actually end up doing that in unhelpful ways.

And one of the ways that we do that it goes back to the; if food is the best part of your day, we need to fix your day is maybe some asking for what you want, so that you don’t have to run to food in order to get it.

Like I think about having a holiday party, and then you’re in the kitchen alone cleaning up and you’re like, Oh my God, I need five minutes to myself. And as you’re in there, you’re just like devouring the carrot cake that you had for dinner.

Then, you feel terrible about it because it wasn’t what you planned or what you wanted to do. Right? And so, often, we don’t advocate for ourselves. And so, we run to food in order to fix that need.

Sara: Yeah. When what we need is somebody else to get their ass in here and help with these dishes because this is not my job to do the dishes for everyone. So, I love all the different ways that just knowing ourselves better opens up more possibilities. And I have so appreciated your willingness to have this conversation with me today. Is there anything that we didn’t touch on that you really want to make sure gets said?

Elizabeth: There’s one thing that I actually want to talk about as far as people pleasing goes and hormones that we didn’t touch on. And I’m going to ask you to do the same thing. So, think about that while I’m talking.

I’m sure, Sarah, that you have so many women in midlife coming to you. And for anyone who’s listening, who is in that perimenopause, menopause time, I want you to be aware that your ability to give an F is physiological. It’s not just something that happens to women.

As women, when we’re younger, we have higher levels of estrogen. Estrogen actually makes us nice. And so, as younger women, it’s really important that we are nice and people pleasing because we need to reproduce. And so, we need to find someone who wants to reproduce with us.

As we get older out of reproductive years, our estrogen levels drop. And when our estrogen levels drop, we are less tolerant of other people’s BS. And so, I think it’s just really important for everyone listening to understand that if you are at that stage where you’re like, I just cannot deal with all of this stuff anymore. I need some for me. You are not alone. This is a physiological response.

Sara: I think that’s hilarious. And tracks, yes. And I also think that knowing how we’re programmed for our biology is so important and also finding the freedom in that biological programming to still have the experience that we want to have. Whether it’s not people pleasing anymore, not getting so stuck and whether or not something is perfect. Or working out a relationship with food that feels loving and like it cares for us. We can celebrate with food.

I love food. When we want to have a great meal, we can have it. And that we know and like our reasons, I think it’s such a gift that coaching offers us in general. So, I really appreciate you being willing to have this conversation. And I just think you’re fantastic.

Elizabeth: And so are you. Sarah, you work with folks one on one and in your group. Is that correct? Any other ways people can work with you?

Sara: No, I do take clients one on one. The next Stop People Pleasing group starts the week of February 8th. And people can learn more about that by finding me on social media, Instagram, Sara Fisk Coaching and checking out the link in my bio there. What about for you?

Elizabeth: And don’t forget you have your podcast, which is called, “The Ex-Good Girl.”

Sara: Yes. I’m the host of The Ex-Good Girl Podcast. Yes. Elizabeth, tell people in your podcast and where to find you.

Elizabeth: Yeah. So, my podcast has recently rebranded. It used to be called, Done with Dieting and now it’s called, “Total Health and Midlife” with Elizabeth Sherman. You can find me on social in Instagram, and Total Health by Eliz on Facebook. And then, my website is

I work with folks one on one and with group. Since, I have visibility into my group as well as your group, I think that actually our groups complement one each other really, really well. So, you could do Sarah’s program first, and then come into mine and work with through food or do it the other way around. I think either way works really well depending on which way you want to go.

Sara: Well, thank you for being here and for being so thoughtful about this conversation. I appreciate it.

Elizabeth: Thank you for being here and sharing with my audience. I love it.

Alright, so thank you so much for joining us in this conversation today. We’ve had such an amazing heart to heart about all things midlife and health. And I’m so glad that you were here for it.

From tackling those midlife changes to figuring out how to have a happy dance with our food instead of a tug of war. We’ve learned a lot in this episode. We talked about how midlife isn’t just about the numbers on the scale, but also about feeling good inside and out.

And we dived into how food isn’t just something on our plate. It’s tied up with our emotions, our relationships, and how we treat ourselves. And let’s not forget about setting those boundaries for food, for people, for everything that matters.

It’s all about knowing what we want, why we want it, and how to make sure that we’re living a life that’s true to us. And that’s some powerful stuff.

If you have a friend who’s wrestling with these same issues and wants to get her health on track so that it doesn’t stand in the way of her dreams, please share this episode with her. It might just be the nudge that she needs.

And if this is hitting home for you and you’re thinking, I want to get my health on track. Then reach out to me. Coaching could be the thing that you’re looking for. It’s like having someone in your corner, cheering you on, helping you sort through the tough stuff and celebrating the wins with you.

So, thank you for tuning in. That’s all I have for you today. Have an amazing week, everyone. And I’ll talk to you next time. Bye-bye.

Thank you for tuning into today’s episode. If what we’ve discussed resonates with you and you’re eager to take your health journey further, I invite you to schedule a one-on-one call with me. It’s an opportunity for us to dive deep into your health goals, explore your unique challenges, and discuss what you’ve tried before.

To book your slot, simply click the link in the show notes. Once you do, you’ll answer a few thought-provoking questions to get us started. Then, all you need to do is show up, and we’ll take it from there.

Let’s make your health journey a priority together. See you on the call!

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