Rewriting Your Food Story

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You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today my guest is Elise Museles. Elise holds four certificates in holistic health and integrative healing. She’s on the Environmental Working Group board of directors, and has been an NIH—National Institute of Health—grant recipient for five years in a row. Elise is the host of the popular podcast Once Upon A Food Story, and with Sounds True, Elise Museles has just written a new book. It’s called Food Story: Rewrite the Way You Eat, Think, and Live. How we relate to food is so native. It’s so intrinsic. It’s so important to who we are and everything we do. Elise helps us look in the mirror and see our true food story up till now and, most importantly, how we can change it, how we can rewrite it to have a relationship with food that is not just healthy, but super joyful and fun. Here’s my conversation with Elise Museles. 

To begin with, Elise, by way of introduction. Can you tell our Insights at the Edge listeners a little about you and how you came to write, teach, and coach people about food?


Elise Museles: Sure. So I always like to say I grew up in Los Angeles, because I think that’s so telling, just about the culture I was surrounded by. But I’ve always been interested and passionate about food. It started out much more as like, my mindset around food wasn’t as healthy as it is today. I was very preoccupied with being thin or skinny, is the term that we used back then. And so what quickly could have been a healthy passion turned into an obsession, and I spent much of my young adult and even childhood thinking about food in an obsessive way. And so then I ended up going to law school and practicing law, practicing immigration law, and really enjoyed helping people. But I just always felt this really strong desire to learn more about health and wellness and the body and mindset.

And so in 2010, I decided that I didn’t want to practice. I had left law and I didn’t want to go back to practicing law and I wanted to pursue my passion, which was all about experiencing feeling good in your body and what that takes, and really learning about food—its impact on our mind and nutrition and, ultimately, eating psychology. And so I became certified in holistic nutrition and eating psychology. And I started working with people mostly on what they were eating. It was helpful, but the women who I was working with, they could write their own blog post. They could write their own books. They had been on every diet. And I just knew that there was this missing piece to the nutrition puzzle.

And at that point I was like the poster child for what was called back then, I’m going to put air quotes, “clean eating.” And so I felt like there was something else. There was something that I hadn’t touched within myself. And there was something that I knew could help others feel better too. And I read a book called The Slow Down Diet, and it wasn’t a diet at all. It was all about mindset and what happens when you are stressed. And we can talk about what stress means in a little bit, about food. And it was just the biggest wake-up call for me. And the author runs the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. His name is Mark David. And I called right away and said, are you going to be doing a virtual course? Because they were located where you are, in Boulder.

And about a year later they had a virtual course and I was the first person to sign up. And I learned all about mindset and just all about helping the mind of the eater and helping people relax around food and the big difference it makes on your digestion and your nutrient assimilation, not to mention pleasure. And during that time period, I really healed my own relationship with food and I got tools to help others. It wasn’t about what they were eating or what I was eating. But we dug deeper into the, how, like how you’re eating and then why. And just asking those questions and really bringing in those other elements was so healing for me and healing for everyone I was working with too.


TS: When you say you dug deep to discover and heal your own relationship with food, tell me what you found and how that healing happened.


EM: Well, I am a perfectionist by nature. And naturally that carried over into my behaviors around food. I was in search of the perfect diet. I wanted to do things perfectly. And then I learned that all those stressful thoughts create a stress response in your system. So it’s like back to basics, like fight or flight. And you don’t even realize that your thoughts can actually impact, like I said, your nutrient assimilation, your digestion, your metabolism, and just how your body processes food. And when I learned that it was such a wake-up call for me, because I was eating all the right things. But then I was thinking, I’m going call them junk food thoughts. And so that was when I realized that I needed to work on my inside as much as I was working on what I was doing on the outside. That’s when it really all came together for me.


TS: And your new book is called Food Story. And you write that we each have a food story. What’s a food story? What are the elements that make up our individual food story?


EM: So can I tell the background story, how I came up with food story?


TS: Please.


EM: Yes, because it’s related to what we’ve been talking about. So I was working with all these clients and I would ask them, so tell me about your relationship with food? And it was like a dead end. You would see their shoulder slump or you would  … Oh no, no, no. That is so complicated. Don’t ask me about that. And it just felt like it was you and food. And so I knew that I had to come up with a different approach. I knew that I had to ask it in a different way, and I had to think about the way we relate to food in a more dynamic way.

And so I started to think about it as a story. And when you learn about food story, it makes a lot of sense, because your relationship with food isn’t just about you and what’s on your plate. There are so many other things that come into play. It’s the messages that you received growing up. It’s your culture, what your parents said to you, what you absorb from the media, your positive memories about food, and your painful memories of food. All of it comes together to form a story.

So back to my clients, when I’d say, tell me about your food story, they’d say, Hmm, I never thought about it like that. And I’d say, well, what are some of the major themes? Who are some of the major characters and minor characters? What are some of the different plot twists? How about the chapters in your food story? And suddenly it became much more dynamic and evolving and it felt like they weren’t stuck. And also, by thinking about all the other factors that come into your relationship with food or your food story, it suddenly helped a lot of my clients feel less shameful, and they understood why they did certain things, and it wasn’t their fault. That they could understand that those messages impacted them. Or the way they were raised really did affect their current behaviors and thoughts around food.


TS: Now the subtitle of your new book is Rewrite the Way You Eat, Think, and Live. And in the book, you help people write a new food story moving forward from this point on. But it seems like I first have to be willing to confront my current food story. Why is that? Because I could imagine a lot of people are very interested in writing a new story, but not necessarily going back and sharing the story of what food was like in their family. Especially if it’s painful in one way or another.


EM: Well, I think you really have to understand that to understand where you are today. I’m going to give a really simple example like, why do you always finish everything on your plate? A lot of people grew up with the clean-your-plate club. You know, their parents made them feel guilty. There are other starving children, or they had to finish everything in order to have dessert. And so when you learn about just some of the messages you received, or some of you can understand where those limiting beliefs come from, it helps you to be able to release them. You know this because I know you talked about this in so many other podcast episodes, but you have to be able to understand where things are coming from, and get them out of your system before you can move forward and make progress or change or transform.


TS: But let’s just take a moment and talk to that person who says, my food story has a lot of painful components. Maybe I wasn’t fed properly. There I was opening a can of old food or something like that. Or, in my case, I was overfed by my mother, which had its own difficult themes and challenges. What resources or tools can you help someone who is looking at going into this archeological dig to uncover their food story when there’s a lot of pain there.


EM: Well, I think first is to take away the blame, because most parents or caregivers are well intentioned and doing the best they can with the knowledge and resources that they have. And I think that’s really, really important. There are things that even I, as a parent, would do differently, knowing what I know now. And it wasn’t that long ago that I was a parent. So if we’re going back several decades, I think people have to put themselves in their parents’ shoes and know that the intention was good. And I think that’s the first thing. When you understand where your pain comes from, I think it’s a lot easier to feel less guilt or less shameful about your current behavior. That exploration helps you heal and move on to the next chapter.


TS: Now you said something that I’m curious about, that you would perhaps even parent and raise your children differently, knowing what you know now than maybe you would’ve done 10 years ago. What things did you do 10—I don’t know if that’s the exact number, but whatever the years are—ago that you would do differently now?


EM: OK. This just popped up for me. My husband reminded me of this story, that my kids were on a school field trip, one of them, I have two sons. And by the way, they both are amazing cooks and now shop at the farmer’s market, but we definitely had a rebellious time period. And they didn’t always doI got a lot of eye rolling. But one of the things that my husband reminded me of the other day is that my kids, one of them went on a field trip, and the teacher called my husband and said, “We’re at McDonald’s and your son won’t eat anything.” And it’s probably because I was like, “We don’t have McDonald’s, that’s not what our family does.” And I can imagine myself saying that.


EM: And so I think that making food off-limits has its negative consequences too. So later on, when my kids were a little bit older, I would have candy in the house on Halloween and I wouldn’t label things as good and bad. And I think that good and bad is something that is so prevalent in the way that we, as a culture, talk about food, and food isn’t good or bad. And that when we have that moral attachment to food, then when we eat that food, we feel good or bad. And that’s not a healthy mindset.


TS: OK. But let’s say someone’s listening, they say, look, it’s a fact, sugar’s bad. And it’s a fact that fast food’s not good for you. I want to impart to my children, those facts. What would you say to that?


EM: I would say that I would not use the good or bad, and I would shareI like adding things in and doing things. We eat a lot of vegetables. We eat the rainbow. Can you help me in the kitchen? Can you help me go to the farmers’ market? And so I would engage the kids, and show don’t tell, that’s the first thing. But I think that if you can give them the tools to be connected to their body so they know that when they eat too much candy, too much sugar, they don’t feel good. That is really the gift that you pass on. But there are ways to communicate it without making it good or bad. In our house, we focus more on foods from the earth or whatever it is that you do. And we don’t eat as much of that food, because it doesn’t make you feel good. But I think letting kids experience that is really beneficial too. They know. Your kids are always watching. So if you’re trying to impart the message that sugar isn’t healthy, but then you’re eating a lot of sugar, then that message isn’t going to translate.


TS: Sure. Now, toward the beginning of the book, in describing this archeological dig that we’re each encouraged to go on to find our food story, you identify eight different food stories that are common in the people that you work with. And one is the story of perfection, and sounds like that’s perhaps the story that you personally connected to, from the way that you talked about yourself. You talk about the story of shame, the story of later, I’m going to start eating the way I really know. And then you had the story of escape. That one really got my attention. It was the story that I connect to the most, of food being a type of reward or an avoidance or it’s soothing, self-medicating. OK. So once we’ve identified elements of our story, how do we get beneath the story? What are your recommendations? Someone’s like, ok, it’s true. This is my story. I eat because I want to feel rewarded. Gosh, after doing all these podcasts, I deserve an X, Y, Z, whatever it might be, for sure. How do I get underneath that?


EM: So that’s chapter two. And I wanted to give the reader who says, I don’t know what my food story is, a starting place. So these were the eight themes that people can identify with. And you can also be a combination of some parts of each and, or in different points in your life you might have felt more like you related to the story of perfection and then the story of later. So it’s not like just that. But I have found that when people can identify the themes and then really trace it back to, where did this all begin? Oftentimes there’s a major shift, a trauma, something in their life that started this whole path. I’ll give you an example. One of my clients who really identified with the story of escape, when she went through puberty her body changed, and her father became really uncomfortable with that. He started saying things or telling her to cover up, or side eyeing when she would eat certain foods. And so she would then hide her food and escape with food.


EM: And so when we were working together, and I asked her, when did it all begin? She had to think about it. And she realized, I was 13, 14 years old. And that’s when it really all started. And it’s been a part of my food story and a very prominent thing in my food story ever since. So in her case, we uncovered where it came from. It helped her release some of that shame and blame. And then she wrote a letter to her father. She wrote a letter that she never gave him, but it made her feel better, that she could go back to that time and place and release that old story.


TS: How much of our food story is simply an inheritance from how our parents related to food.


EM: I think that’s hard to say, because well, we are born into a food story. And I don’t know about you, but I catch myself either saying things or doing things or believing things. And I’m like, I’m my mother. But I eat completely differently than she does now. So I really think that the way you were raised influences the way that you connect to food, but then there are things in your life that happen. Some people get sick, some people have wake-up call that may be where you evolve and have a new chapter of your food story. But I do know that for a lot of people, their comfort foods are foods that were used as comfort growing up. And we saw a lot of that over the pandemic too. People turning to their childhood comfort foods. Those memories are still within you. It’s so much more than just the actual food, it’s the emotional connection. It’s a time and place that made you feel good. And your body remembers. You feel that in your body.


TS: Now, it sounds like there was a big moment in your life in terms of differentiating from the story of perfection that happened when you were dining with your to-be husband who wasn’t your to-be husband yet at that moment, can you share that story?


EM: Sure, of course. So I was in law school, about to graduate from law school, and my husband was already practicing law. And he grew up in, like, a meat-and-potatoes household. And his mom cooked very traditionally. And food was, I guess, celebratory and pleasure. And there wasn’t an abundance of it. His dad was in the Navy. And there weren’t really, issues, I guess, relating to food or preoccupation with weight or anything like that coming from his side of the family. And I grew up in LA, where even my dad was very conscious food and his weight. When he was, I don’t even know how old he was, but when I was a child, he used to lock the refrigerator door every single night. And then he would hand the key to my mom and like scream down the stairs or up the stairs, “Do you want anything before I lock up?”


EM: And so we grew up thinking that food was kept under lock and key. And I know that probably sounds really like, he used a bicycle lock, an extreme measure, but he would sleepwalk and wasn’t conscious of it. And he didn’t want to do that and wake up feeling ill. And then at the same time, I grew up, my mom was very conscious, her friends, they would bring diet salad dressings, and they talked about their weight. And I just heard all of that.

And I had a lot of rules and I was very restrictive and we were out at the celebratory dinner, and my, he wasn’t my husband, he was my boyfriend at the time. He just had had it. We were supposed to be eating at this fancy restaurant that took three months to get a reservation, enjoying the food. And I was pushing it around because it had some sort of a cream sauce on it. And that wasn’t part of my food rules, to eat cream sauce. And he looked at me and said, “I can’t do this anymore.” We hadn’t talked about having a family, and we were going to get married. I mean, we weren’t engaged, but we had talked about it. He said, I feel uncomfortable in my body watching you feel uncomfortable in your body, and not relaxed around food. And I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to eat like this. And I certainly don’t want to pass on anything like this to our family, if we were to have one. And he broke up with me at dinner.


TS: Wow.


EM: Yes.


TS: How did you get back together?


EM: So I went back to California, which is where I’m from. And that was just a pivotal moment in my food story, because it was the first time that I realized that what I was doing and what I was thinking was affecting other people. And I think this is a huge, for all our listeners who are in a place where they might be preoccupied with food or feel not comfortable in their body, or they’re not really relaxed and just deliberating about their choices, whatever it may be. Those thoughts, it’s energy. People pick up on it and it doesn’t just affect you. It affects everyone around you too.

That was such a huge realization for me. That’s when I really, really started to heal my relationship with food. And it wasn’t through education. At that point, I was just graduating from law school. It was really about taking back the joy of eating. Learning how to cook. It’s a slow process, but actually, cooking was so healing for me. Because I think when you cook your own food, you appreciate the ingredients. You feel more connected to it, and you want to enjoy it and eat it, not push it around on the plate and worry about the numbers. 


TS: How did you prove to this gentleman, now your husband, that you were in a different place?


EM: Well, when we were together, I think it’s just obvious. We missed one another, and then when he came to visit me in California, I was not as stressed about food. I was more relaxed. It was easier to be around me because I wasn’t fixated on what I was eating or not eating.


TS: OK. So what I noticed, Elise, in having this conversation with you, is that there’s a lot of different levels that we can have the conversation. In your book, you include recipes, you show the connection between food and mood, and there’s a lighthearted way we could have this conversation. But I’m also aware, and in reading Food Story, for whatever reason, I don’t know if it’s just my nature or what, I also tuned in to the really deep, I’m going to say trauma, that a lot of people have in their food story. If someone’s been anorexic or bulimic, if someone’s really has a food story that’s riddled with a whole lot of a shame and self-blame, this can be very deep and very difficult work. And I wonder what you could say to this person who might be listening, who might be saying, wow, we’re talking about this, and, Elise, so she’s a perfectionist. OK. But this is really deep material for me.


EM: Right. It is really deep material. And I just want to say that, with my certifications, this isn’t a book about treating an eating disorder. And that doesn’t mean that someone who hasn’t recovered, and is in a different place with their food story, can’t read the book and benefit from it. But this isn’t a book intended for someone with an eating disorder to recover. So I just want to clarify that.


TS: No, it’s an important point. Thank you.


EM: Yes. And I do agree with you that this is painful, that this is deep, that this isn’t something that is always so lighthearted. But I also think that I wanted to move, I think that the reader might, we all come from different points, but the reader who has really had a lifelong struggle with food probably knows intimately their story. And this will awaken them and in a different way. And instead of just staying stuck there, I wanted a book that helped propel people forward. You have to understand it. You have to go there. You have to revisit parts of your past where there’s unresolved trauma.

And trauma could be big or small. And I just want to reference that trauma can be, you’re sitting with your sister on the bench and your mom says to you, why are you eating that ice cream, and allows your sister to have it. That’s a trauma. A trauma could be boys teasing you on a bus for being overweight. Trauma doesn’t necessarily have to beThere’s all levels of trauma. But I wanted to create a book that helped people move forward and find the joy that’s been lost with eating. Because when you find that, then it spills into all areas of your life. It affects your relationships. It affects your productivity, your creativity. And I wanted the reader to get there. And I wanted to be able to take the reader through this five-step method and not keep them—you could stay stuck in your past, but help them get to living their new food story.


TS: And can you summarize the five steps?


EM: Sure. OK. So the first part of the book, and this is the question I get asked all the time is, how do I know my food story? So the first part of the book is discover your food story. That’s all about what you and I had talked about, really. Really understanding where some of your limiting beliefs came from, recognizing the source of those limiting beliefs. And then the next section is called “Release What No Longer Serves You.” And that’s where we get into releasing your old food story and saying, that’s not my food story now.

And then we move into understanding, where did the messages all come from? Where are the messages coming from that are disconnecting you from your body? And I call that “Quiet the Food Noise.” And I don’t know if you want me to elaborate a little bit on food noise. But food noise is really everything that you’re hearing from external sources. And then how are you interpreting that, and talking about it internally to yourself. And then the next chapter, this is actually myThe next part is how not to bring stress to the table. And that’s really what you and I had talked about at the beginning, the impact of stress, and why it is so imperative not to feel stress while you’re eating and what happens to your body physiologically.

And then I’d help the reader reconnect with their body, which is just really about finding, being present and learning about all the wonderful and nourishing things that food can do for you, not to you. That sounds really subtle, but it’s a huge mindset shift. And then part four actually is all about writing your new food story. That’s where you learn how to make yourself a priority. I have the reader go through a process where they write out their food story. You don’t have to be a writer for that. I made it really easy, where you can fill in the blanks. You can elaborate if you want to. And then I get into how life happens, to let yourself be human.

And the last part is living your food story. And this is a really fun part of the book to write. It’s all about just being prepared, making your kitchen welcoming, about how you can evolve and, people like to say, fall off-track, but still stay curious and treat yourself with compassion and kindness. And then the last part of the book is the recipes and rituals. And as you had mentioned, they are all by mood. I identified seven moods that I think people really want to feel, and then give ingredients and rituals and recipes to help you feel that way.


TS: All right, Elise, I want to address a certain page in the book where you list some common limiting beliefs about food. And I starred some of them, because I realized I have these common limiting beliefs, and I’m imagining that many of our listeners do too. OK, here’s one. “I have to deprive myself in order to be healthy or lose weight.” That’s not true?


EM: That’s not true.


TS: OK. Convince me it’s not true.


EM: OK. Well, I would want to know when do you tell yourself that, and what do you feel like you’re being deprived of?


TS: I would have to deprive myself of a certain categories and types of food, I believe, and I’d have to eat less quantity. So I would potentially experience that as deprivation. So I have a myth or an idea that I would have to go through deprivation if I wanted to lose weight.


EM: I think feeling good—this book is really about feeling good. It’s a lot less about weight loss, because when you feel good and when you’re relaxed around food, your body will naturally do what it’s supposed to do. But the deprivation part, that’s really a mindset. I like to get people excited about all the food that they can have. So let me ask you a question, Tami, when you read the recipes, did you get hungry? Were you excited about them? 


TS: Yes, I was actually. I like macho, so there was a macho recipe. I like beets. Yes, I got excited.


EM: OK. And there’s some spiced chocolate tartlets, and there’s a lot of really, great in my opinion. I think there’s a lot of good recipes and there’s even pancakes. And then a mac and cheese that’s made with butternut squash. So they’re in the comforted mood section. So I think it’s all that deprivation, like if you start out saying I’m depriving myself, then you will feel deprived. But if you get excited about all the things that you can have, then right away, just that flipping the script will help you feel less deprived.


TS: Now this emphasis on finding the pleasure and joy, it’s obviously something that really lights you up—so writing a new food story that has a lot of pleasure and joy in it. And you mentioned, and I think it kind of snuck out, that the perhaps favorite section of the book for you has to do with how we feel when we eat. So let’s talk to that person who is eating on the run. You write in the book, how many of us, something like 88 percent of adults polled, stared at a screen while eating. You called these distracted eaters. What are the things we can do so that we really bring pleasure and joy to our eating?


EM: OK. So the very first thing you can do is slow down. In the book, in chapter eight, I have a chocolate meditation. And I talk about my chocolate meditation all the time. And it’s not because I think people should meditate while eating, but it’s really to illustrate the power of presence. And I’ve done this chocolate meditation dozens, and probably over 100 times. And without fail, every time I do this chocolate meditation, somebody or many people who are experiencing it will say, wow, I have never tasted chocolate like that. But the reason that it’s so powerful is not because it’s this magical chocolate, it’s because they’re sitting and not looking at their phones, not distracted, not on the run, like you mentioned, but just really in their body and noticing the taste, the smell, just the little nuances of what food actually tastes like. And it is exponentially so much more satisfying and pleasurable when you do that.

And so I’m not talking about, like, spreading a white tablecloth out and having these multi-course meals, it’s really just about finding even five or ten minutes to be with your food. And it’s so life-changing when you do that, and talk about not feeling deprived, you enjoy your food, or you noticed, let’s say you actually didn’t enjoy something, but you were eating it for years and years because it was part of your routine or you thought you should, then you have more clarity on, you know what? This isn’t for me anymore. So it just brings awareness and, like I said, clarity to what feels good in your body.


TS: Now, you’re emphasizing this notion of writing a new story. And I pulled out some of the old stories, the old painful stories that many of us have. Can you give me some examples of some new stories you’ve worked with clients to write? What’s a new food story sound like?


EM: Well, I trust my body. So many of us are disconnected from our bodies because of the messages that we receive growing up, or just even something harmless that we thought as clean your plate, I’m going to go back to that. That disconnects us from our body, because we feel like we have to finish everything before we get up from the table or before having dessert or whatever it may be that you were told. So many of us are disconnected from our bodies. Also, even today, watching influencers on social media and thinking I need to eat this or not eat that. So a new food story, you would tune out all of those external voices, the noise, the messages and learn how to reconnect to the inner wisdom that we all have inside our body.

So that’s one huge thing that I hope all of the readers, after going through the whole food story method, would feel. That I had mentioned earlier about tweak in mindset. So many of us will eat something—and I know this was part of my food story—and worry about what food will do to us. And so that goes back to your limiting belief about weight gain or whatever. So, will it make me bloated? Will it make me have a stomachache? Will it go straight to my thighs? Whatever you think about food. I encourage the reader to think about everything food can do for you. And that is so empowering. It can give you energy, it can connect you, it can bring you pleasure. You can feel calmer or you can feel comforted. There are so many positive things that food does for you. And so that is part of your new food story. You want me to go on? 


TS: Yes. I do. I love having a new food story. Let’s keep going. I love this part.


EM: OK. I know that in chapter 17, I talked about old story versus news story. And so I don’t remember all of them off the top of my head, but that is, if you read the book and you go through the exercises, you will be able to compare your old story versus your new story. And those are some of what I just talked about. Those are some of the things that you will feel once you go through the food story method.


TS: I’m going to share a couple interesting ones—because I have the book right here, and you can comment on them—that I think are really interesting. Old story, I don’t want to plan ahead and spend my day doing meal prep. That sounds rigid and boring. I want to be spontaneous. And then you have this new story, planning ahead allows for more freedom. So tell me the new story when it comes to meal prep. 


EM: OK. So I’m not into rigid rules or meal plans, which is like, I’m going to eat grapefruit and oatmeal on Wednesday morning. No, it’s not about that. It’s about going to the farmers’ market or to the grocery store, stocking your pantry with the staples, making foods that you can mix and match throughout the week. And, again, tuning into how you’re feeling and not having a rigid plan, but having options, because we end up making less healthy choices when we don’t have the options in front of us.

I have a whole chapter on what I call food prep and mood prep, which are non-food ways to get organized for the week. And when you do that, you’re thinking about your future self. And it’s a form of self-care. You’re taking care of future you by batch cooking and having all these ingredients ready to be mixed and matched throughout the week. And we just feel so much better when we’re organized and we think about having that food ready for us to eat.


TS: OK. I’m imagining, and I’m sorry, Elise, but I’m imagining someone rolling their eyes right now and going, I just can’t imagine getting excited on the weekend doing this. There are these other things I’d much rather be doing. How am I going to write this new story where I get excited about having all this batch stuff prepared? How do I get there?


EM: OK. Well, first of all, it relieves so much stress. So if you have stress in your life and you want to feel better throughout the week, think about that. But I say that you make it fun, turn on the music, engage your friends, your family members, your roommates, whoever, and turn it into a little event so that it’s exciting for you. And that’s really about shifting your mindset. It’s not a chore. It’s something that you do as an act of self-care. I don’t always feel like doing it. It doesn’t have to be the same week to week. Even if you make one pot of soup or one set of snacks, that’s at least getting you into the habit of knowing how beneficial food prep can be for you during the week.


TS: OK. Here’s an old story turning into a new story. Old story, I just get so bored in the kitchen and draw a blank when I walk inside. Cooking is so tedious.




TS: What’s my new story?


EM: Well, it was what I said to you before, cooking is fun. It’s a stress release. It can be therapeutic. And when you cook for yourself and you’re using all the seasonal ingredients, you want to eat it. You want to enjoy it. You want to get the most out of it, because you spent your precious time preparing the meal. I think that you have to find if cooking can be really simple. You could just, like in the morning, it could be about tossing your favorite ingredients into a blender and spending five minutes whipping up a smoothie that’s nutrient-dense and is going to stabilize your blood sugar. It can also just be throwing some vegetables, or if you eat some animal protein or beans or tofu or whatever, into a skillet and sauté for a stir fry, it doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be hard.

And if I’m being really honest, I don’t even cook from a recipe most of the time. I just put food together so that it’s colorful and exciting. And it’s made from local ingredients from farmers I’ve spoken to. And I think there’s just so many ways to connect to your food. And that oftentimes when we’re disconnected, when we’re ordering from, I’m not saying anything’s wrong with ordering from restaurants, but when we’re ordering from restaurants and we don’t really have that true connection with what we’re eating, because we didn’t see it from beginning to end, that we don’t feel excited about it. But I say, just try it. Try a couple meals a week. Don’t go from zero to 60. Just try cooking three nights a week and see how you feel. I know that there are so many people during the pandemic, and a lot of men I’ve spoken to, took up cooking and they’re like, wow, I never realized how much I enjoyed it and I’m so glad I had this opportunity to do it. So I say, just try it, because it is the biggest gift that you can give yourself.


TS: OK, I’m going to just do one more of these old story and then ask you to give me the new story. The old story: I don’t know how to make time for myself and my health. I have a million demands, kids, family, work, errands, bills, taxes, etcetera, that always take higher priority.


EM: OK. So the new story is that I’m just as important, if not more, than anyone else. And if there’s that expression that you have to fill up your own cup to, and or put on your own oxygen mask. And it’s carried on for a reason, because it is the truth. When you think about that, when you take care of yourself, you will better serve these other important people in your life. That might be the impetus to just start doing it and feel less guilt about it. But I say, you have to—it’s easy to let it slip. It’s easy when you have a million responsibilities, whether it’s a family members, a demanding job, or all of the above. Put it in your calendar until it becomes a habit. Put it down and don’t break the appointment. Put it down that from this time to this time it’s movement or meditation or cooking yourself a nourishing meal. Add it to your calendar. And it’s an appointment like if you had it for your child or a client that you wouldn’t break, take it that seriously.


TS: Now, Elise, I mentioned to you that an old food story for me is eating for comfort. I want to be comforted. And interestingly, toward the end of the book, you write about emotional eating. And you don’t have the same view toward emotional eating that a lot of other people who teach on health psychology, food psychology seem to have. You write, “Emotional eating will always be part of your food story. You shouldn’t fight emotional eating.” So what’s your take on emotional eating?


EM: I’m so glad you asked that, Tami, because it is a really important part of our food story. Did you hear me get so excited about cooking? I think food is emotional. And we have all sorts of connections to what we’re eating. And to deny that—it’s just not true. And I think it adds another element to food that makes it—it’s soul nourishment. So when we talk about emotional eating as a negative thing, it’s really about when people turn to food to help them feel better. So if food can help—does in fact—help you feel better, like something that your grandmother made, then I’m all for that. I think that where it becomes a little more murky, and where you really have to do the work and ask yourself the question is, if you’re turning to food again and again, like habitually, to soothe, to make you feel better when, in fact, it doesn’t really make you feel better. Then in the book, we go through a series of questions to ask yourself, and then alternative forms of emotional comfort that might make you feel better. 


TS: What about if you turn to food and you eat some of it and it does make you feel better. It actually does. It’s like wonderful. That made me feel better.


EM: Right? So that’s what I’m saying; that’s great. If it made you feel better and if you feel good about it and it wasn’t the hug that you were after or the deep conversation with someone important in your life or going for a walk and moving your body and clearing your head, but the food did it. Then food is comfort for you in that moment. And we can’t deny that it is that.


TS: All right. You emphasize, and you mentioned it here in our conversation, the importance of actually writing a new story, and you’ve tried to make it easy for people by giving them an outline that they can fill in. And you describe writing as a way of encoding, encoding this new narrative. Why is the act of writing a new story so important to you?


EM: We all have so much going on in our heads, and that if you want this to be real, if you want to hold yourself accountable, if you want to see and feel, what is it really going to be like to live this new food story? When you put it on paper, it takes on a different life, a different meaning. You can see it with your own eyes. You can feel it, is this what I want? Is this the life I want? And what will it take for me to get here? And all of those questions become so much more clear when you see your words on paper or on the screen or whatever or in the book. So it’s a release too, to get it out of your head. And I used this word earlier, it brings so much clarity too. And I think it can also bring excitement and enthusiasm and really make it feel so much more real when it’s not just swirling around as a concept of something that you might want in a distant future.


TS: OK. So a listener, a reader, someone you’re coaching, they write a new food story and it feels really good. I’m going to be in my body. I’m going to listen to my body. I’m going to eat what my body wants. And then something happens like, I didn’t have time to eat during the day, and then I met some friends for dinner and before you know it, I overate. Halfway through the meal I was overfull, but I just kind of kept eating. Oh my God, this is exactly not in keeping with my new food story. What do we do then?


EM: Well, you have your food story written down. And you can go back to it and see, how do I want to feel? But life happens. And so that’s the beautiful thing about story. It’s not rigid. It is constantly evolving. It’s dynamic. There’s flow, and there’s different seasons of life and different characters that come in. And so this is your story now. But maybe it’s time for a new chapter if it’s not working, or it’s time to make a few little edits to your story, to figure out what will work for you. And so that’s why I like to call it story, because it’s not set in stone.


TS: But what about when you just mess up? It’s just a mess up. I just messed up. What about those moments?


EM: I can’t remember if I called it the uh-oh moments, you mean?


TS: Yes. Those moments.


EM: Yes, they happen all the time. Then you get back to what makes you feel good, that you realize life happens, we travel, something happens with your child, or you get sick and things change, but then you always have your story to go back to. And it’s not, I don’t like saying get back on track, because I don’t think that anything in our lives is really linear. Healing isn’t linear, and your food story isn’t linear. And so that’s the thing. You have it. You know what makes you feel good. And you know when everything is aligned and how that feels in your body. So you went a little off to the right or off to the left, but then you can come back to your path and do what makes you feel good.


TS: All right. To close, Elise, the subtitle of Food Story: Rewrite the Way You Eat, Think, and Live. How do you see the connection between the rewriting of our food story and really the rewriting of our life story?


EM: So I really believe that the way that you relate to food and the way you can allow it to nourish your body, or not, impacts everything. It impacts your health. It impacts the way you think. It impacts your mood, how you connect with other people, your creativity, your productivity. I mean, when you eat foods that nourish every cell in your body, you are positioning yourself to really live your best life, to feel good while you’re doing it. And the way you relate to food it spills over into all areas of your life. And that subtitle, Rewrite the Way You Eat, Think, and Live, because so much of our relationship with food and so much of our food story has to do with our thoughts. And we’ve talked about that a lot in our conversation today. And so that’s the think part. And then the live is just allowing food to help you live your best life. Not control it.


TS: I’ve been speaking with Elise Museles. She’s the author of the new book, Food Story. What a great title. Rewrite the Way You Eat, Think, and Live. Thank you so much, Elise. Thanks for everything you poured into the book.


EM: Thank you so much for having me, Tami. And thank you to the whole Sounds True team. I had such a phenomenal experience as an author with Sounds True.


TS: Wonderful. Always happy to hear that. Thank you for listening to Insights at the Edge. You can read a full transcript of today’s interview at And if you’re interested, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app. And also if you feel inspired, head to iTunes and leave Insights at the Edge a review. I love getting your feedback, being in connection with you, and learning how we can continue to evolve and improve our program. Working together, I believe we can create a kinder and wiser world. waking up the world.


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