32: Emotional Eating and Willpower with Dr. Siobhan Key

If you’ve ever been on a weight loss journey, you’ll likely resonate with the feeling of being on a rollercoaster that you can’t get off of. The strategies of restriction and willpower is synonymous with weight loss for so many people, and it probably wasn’t long into your last attempt that you decided to quit, only to despair being back at square one.

To discuss the topic of emotional eating and willpower, I’m speaking to Dr. Siobhan Key, an obesity and family physician, weight loss coach for physicians, and an expert in emotional and binge eating. She helps her clients not only lose weight but thrive in weight loss, and she’s here this week to discuss the mindset challenges of emotional eating and the problem with using willpower to change it. 

Join us this week as Dr. Siobhan Key dives into the crux of emotional eating, and why we often default to using restriction and willpower. We’re examining how emotional eating becomes a form of relaxation and stress management, why weight loss quickly becomes unsustainable, the key to making it sustainable, and how to leave restriction and willpower by the wayside moving forward.

Habits on Purpose with Kristi Angevine, MD | | Emotional Eating and Willpower with Dr. Siobhan Key

If you’ve ever been on a weight loss journey, you’ll likely resonate with the feeling of being on a rollercoaster that you can’t get off of. The strategies of restriction and willpower is synonymous with weight loss for so many people, and it probably wasn’t long into your last attempt that you decided to quit, only to despair being back at square one.

Habits on Purpose with Kristi Angevine, MD | | Emotional Eating and Willpower with Dr. Siobhan Key

To discuss the topic of emotional eating and willpower, I’m speaking to Dr. Siobhan Key, an obesity and family physician, weight loss coach for physicians, and an expert in emotional and binge eating. She helps her clients not only lose weight but thrive in weight loss, and she’s here this week to discuss the mindset challenges of emotional eating and the problem with using willpower to change it.

Join us this week as Dr. Siobhan Key dives into the crux of emotional eating, and why we often default to using restriction and willpower. We’re examining how emotional eating becomes a form of relaxation and stress management, why weight loss quickly becomes unsustainable, the key to making it sustainable, and how to leave restriction and willpower by the wayside moving forward.

Enrollment for the current round of Habits on Purpose for Physicians (HOPP) CME Small Group Coaching Program opens soon. The next round starts in October 2022. If you’re a female physician who wants to better understand your habits and learn to apply pragmatic tools to create new ones, click this link to learn about the program and click here to sign up for the waitlist for the next round.

What you'll learn from this episode:

  • How, so often, weight loss quickly becomes unsustainable. 
  • The key to making weight loss sustainable.
  • What drew Dr. Siobhan to integrating coaching with obesity medicine.
  • How food becomes a source of self-care, relaxation, and stress management. 
  • Dr. Siobhan’s thoughts on restriction and willpower in weight loss.
  • The issue with using willpower to change the habit of emotional eating.
  • How our thoughts play a role in how we perceive restriction.
  • Dr. Siobhan’s practical tips for creating a path of enjoyment as you try to change your habits without using willpower. 

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

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  • Enrollment for the current round of Habits on Purpose for Physicians (HOPP) CME Small Group Coaching Program opens soon. The next round starts in October 2022. If you’re a female physician who wants to better understand your habits and learn to apply pragmatic tools to create new ones, click this link to learn about the program and click here to sign up for the waitlist for the next round.
  • Join the Habits on Purpose Facebook group!
  • Click here to send me any questions that you would like addressed on the podcast!
  • Dr. Siobhan Key: Website | Instagram | Podcast 
  • Check out Thrive Academy for Physicians!


Full Episode Transcript:

Welcome to Episode 32. I’m your host Kristi Angevine, and today is all about the habit of emotional eating. And, the problem with using willpower to change it. My guest is Dr. Siobhan Key, an obesity and family physician, a weight loss coach, and an expert in emotional and binge eating.

She's a mom of three, an avid runner, and has a podcast called Weight Solutions for Physicians. Listen in, as she and I chat about the mindset challenges of emotional eating, and food as a form of stress relief. If you like what you hear, please connect with Dr. Key and start following her podcast.

If you want a space where you can apply the things you've learned about on the podcast, and you're a woman physician listening to this when it comes out in September of 2022, the next Habits On Purpose for Physicians Small Group Coaching Program starts in October.

It's an intimate six-month program with other women physicians, working on habits like perfectionism, numbing of all types, all-or-nothing thinking, overextending, stealth, and overt people-pleasing, and more. Other than being one of my private clients, this is the only place you can go to get personal coaching and guidance to actually implement in real life, the concepts and tools that I talked about here.

The program combines deep-dive coaching, informed by Internal Family Systems and cognitive psychology, with practical tools for your real life. To learn more, go to habitsonpurpose.com or the show notes, and join the waitlist. Now, let's dive into willpower and emotional eating with Dr. Siobhan Key.

Welcome to Habits On Purpose, a podcast for high-achieving women who want to create lifelong habits that give more than they take. You'll get practical strategies for mindset shifts that will help you finally understand the root causes of why you think, feel, and act as you do. And now, here's your host physician and Master Certified Life Coach Kristi Angevine.

Kristi Angevine: Siobhan, welcome to the podcast. It is so fun to have you here. Could you take a minute and introduce yourself to all the people who don't already follow you and know who you are and what you do?

Siobhan Key: Thank you, I'm super excited to be here. I'm Siobhan Key. I'm a practicing Family Medicine and Obesity Medicine Physician. I coach physicians on not just weight loss, but how to approach weight loss entirely differently, so that they can thrive in their weight loss.

Because I really believe, with all the years that I've coached physicians and all the years I've worked in obesity medicine, anything where we're trying to lose weight, where we're hating what we're doing, and we're exerting so much energy just to stick to the healthy habits we're trying to create, it automatically becomes not sustainable.

What's sustainable for us as humans, is loving what we do and enjoying what we choose to do. So, what I help physicians do is turn the classic weight loss stuff on its head. Instead of being the thing you dread to do, and you're thinking, “Oh God, I need to like get back to my weight loss and get back to my healthy eating.” It becomes like, “Oh, this is going to be great. I like what I'm going to eat. I can't wait to eat my lunch tomorrow that I packed because it's going to be delicious.” Because then, it's so much more sustainable. It's so much easier to do in the midst of a busy physician's life.

Kristi: I think the key thing that you said there is, thrive in weight loss. Because I feel like the classic thing, when we think about changing a habit related to food or exercise, or any of the things that may go into weight loss, is people think; once I lose weight, later on, when I'm the size I want or I've got the muscle mass I want or the exercise habits I want, later on, then I can be done with the misery of the journey, and I will have arrived and life will be amazing. I will thrive later.

As opposed to doing something in the current moment that will help with sustainability for the long haul.

Siobhan: Yeah, and I love that you said that. I actually just recorded a podcast episode just before this interview started, and I was talking about very similar in that, it doesn't work that way, like we've been taught. Essentially, the version of weight loss that we've been taught is this delayed gratificatio.

Suffer through the weight loss. Do stuff that you don't really want to do. Use a lot of willpower to get it done. And then at some point, you're going to hit this magical goal and suddenly be happy, and satisfied with your body, and able to eat normally, and not worry about your weight. It's a load of boo-harkey; I don't know if boo-harkey's a word. It just made it up. It’s a load of it.

It just doesn't work that way. What happens is, we hate it, we don't do it long enough to reach our goals. Even if we do reach our goals, if we're thinking that once we hit there, like you said, that all of a sudden, it's just easy-peasy, that's the recipe for weight regain.

Because it's weight management, it's lifelong weight management, in that if you go back to what you're doing before you lost the weight, the weight comes back. Because those habits you were doing before you lost the weight, helped create the weight and supported the weight, right?

Kristi: Absolutely. I want to take just a moment, sort of in parentheses, for anyone who's listening to this, who, as soon as they heard “weight loss”, “thriving in weight loss”, they thought for just a moment, “Well, I don't know if weights really my issue. I don't know if food is my issue. I don't know…” As you're listening to this, and tell me, Siobhan, if you disagree, I think people can insert, every time they hear us talk about weight, or talk about food, they can insert any other goal, any other set of habits, any other, you know, item or substance that they might use to manage emotional, mental stress, or to temper any of the difficulties of life.

It doesn't have to be, even though we're talking about habits and things related to weight loss, it's habits that extend beyond the microcosm of that, right?

Siobhan: Absolutely. Yeah, like anything that you're trying to do to improve your life and improve your health, it may as well be enjoyable or as enjoyable as you can make it. Because then that's going to be longer lasting for you. You know, if you're trying to cut back on alcohol, if you hate every moment of it, it might not last. Because your brain is going to want to go back to the thing it views as being so enjoyable.

That question can take a bit of work. Like, when we're so used to something that's so powerful like food, and you're used to getting your relaxation, your self-care, your stress management, from a substance; be it food, be it alcohol, be it whatever other activities do it for you. It can be really hard, when we're sitting here talking about enjoying the path of not doing that, enjoying the other path to actually picture it.

Because our brains are so invested in; well, this is the way I actually get the enjoyment. Especially like as a, you know, busy physician, you come home from work, you're exhausted, it's really hard to picture that something else will be as enjoyable as sitting down to eat, or sitting down to have a drink, or whatever it is that you choose to do.

So, developing that approach, and what I talked about in creating the enjoyment and creating a path where you actually really like what you're doing, it does take a little bit of mind work. Because we're so used to not enjoying it. We've been trained to not enjoy it. It's flipping your previous diet experiences on their head, because we're switching from let's do a diet to let's change how we're doing this for life. Let's find the lasting solutions that work for me, in my life, with my preferences.

Kristi: I think anybody listening who thinks that that sounds kind of like this utopian Shangri-La, that maybe is available to other people, I just want to reinforce that this is definitely not something that's just an idealized, romanticized, hazy dream. It's actually something really practical and concrete, and developing that, it's possible for anyone.

What crosses my mind right now, as you're talking about this is, like, I would love to talk about how willpower and particularly food restriction come into play. Because when it comes to habit change, I feel like so many of my own experiences, so many of my clients will very much think, “Well, one of the requirements of habit change must be just a high degree of willpower.”

I know you specialize in helping women physicians, you know, feel in control around food. And you know, as you're talking about Thrive and their weight loss journey, I think for many people, restriction and willpower are basically synonymous with weight loss.

So, I'm curious, what are your thoughts when it comes to how those things actually play out, when you're coaching your clients about this?

Siobhan: I think they're synonymous with the weight loss, like we assume that's what the experience will be. But also, when you look at the other side, those things are synonymous with being stuck in the weight loss roller coaster. Like; I'm starting. I'm trying. I've messed up, now I’m back to ground zero. I'm going to start. I'm going to try. Now I'm back to square one.

So, I believe, particularly as physicians, is if you're depending on willpower to make your choices, it has a limited supply. This is like a decision-making capacity, is something that's been researched a lot. But when we think about the classic day that we go through, and this applies to physicians but it also applies to people who are non-physicians, of course, is in the morning you wake up and you're like, “Oh yeah, no problem. I can stick to my healthy eating. It's going to be great. I'm going to love all these salads that I planned for myself for the day.”

Then, you start going through your day; breakfast is okay, lunch is okay, 3pm hits, which is the classic time, and all of a sudden, it starts to feel more difficult. And then by the time you're driving home, maybe you're having more food cravings.

By the time you come in the house, you feel like you can't stop eating, you're, you know, finishing up the kids scraps off their plates, snacking after they go to bed. All of this, and feeling very out of control and not sure why. At the same time beating yourself up that you don't have the willpower to stop eating.

Which this is such a classic, if you're listening and you identify with this, it's such a classic pattern. The problem is, the willpower doesn't last through a crazy busy day, because you're not just using willpower and decision-making capacity for your food choices. You're using it for everything. Like, when you sit down and you do your notes, instead of taking off out of the office, you're using willpower to like, sit down and do it.

You know, when you're making choices in your day, in work, you're using decision-making capacity, and it gets used up. There's lots and lots of nuances that we can talk about. About how you actually can like, how else we set ourselves up where the evenings are the bad time of the day.

But the big thing is thinking that the way to control it is to muscle through it, it just doesn't work. The muscle power isn't there, the caring isn't there, right? A lot of people I'm sure, listening, will have been there in an evening where they're like; I know I should care, but I just don't care right now. They don't understand how that can be so different from the morning, when they woke up and really cared.

Kristi: I loved how you sort of distinguished between caring and willpower, and how it's easy to sort of blend the two of those together. That ubiquitous pattern of willpower and decision-making capacity have sort of reached their limits. Their utility is, you know, or their ability to exert, you know, some control over the situation is completely diminished.

Then somebody says, “Well, what is my problem?” You know, that sort of really harsh self-rebuke, just creates so much discouragement, which can make it so much more tempting to want to turn to the thing in which you find the most comfort. Which is, oftentimes, something that you may have an underbelly, you know if it is shopping, or if it was drinking, or if it is eating, or if it is scrolling on your phone for hours on end, when you don't want to be.

Siobhan: Absolutely, and the topic of restriction can play into this too, right? Because alongside of, if we're really depending on willpower, alongside of that, while you're going through that day, chances are you're also treating yourself to restriction. when earlier in the day, when you have all that willpower, it's easy to be like, I kind of joked about, you know, all these salads I packed for myself.

I always joke about like, the epitome of horrible diet food that I remember from my life. It’s like that, you know, plain boring salad with, like, you know, not the best Iceberg lettuce and a dry chicken breast. Where you dip your fork in the dressing to give it just a little bit of flavor, like horrible. I never want to eat one of those again. So, I don't, by the way.

But so, the restriction, we're like, “Oh, yeah, no, that'll be okay. I'll be able to eat that horrible salad, because you know what? It's what I’ve got to do.” Often the restriction, there's thoughts about atoning for what you ate the night before. Maybe the thoughts are; yeah, you know, I'm just going to eat that really horrible, really boring, really unsatisfying salad today. Because look at what I did last night. Look at what I ate last night. You know, I need to kind of compensate and make up for that.

Often you start the day restrictive, and our minds don't like to be restricted. We, as humans, don't really like to be restricted. I would argue, for those of us who are physicians, we really like autonomy. So, restriction doesn't feel good; being told what we can't do, and not being allowed to do what we really want to do, doesn't feel great. Doesn't for anybody, really.

The interesting thing, is that the restriction actually comes from our thoughts. It's not the food. Like, you could decide that that's a great salad and you're really happy with it, and you're not going to feel restricted by it. I struggled with that, with that particular salad, because I have so many thoughts and memories about those salads. So, I just choose not to eat them.

But if I am planning a salad, how I think about it is going to change whether or not I feel restricted. If I plan a salad, I pack a salad, and I spend my time leading up to lunch thinking how nice it'd be to go through a drive-thru instead, that salad is going to feel restrictive, even if it's delicious and great. And, something I mean like in another setting.

If I spend my day thinking about how delicious that salad’s going to be, how great the dressing is going to be, how, you know, good it's going to feel to have a break and sit down, and eat that good salad, it's not going to feel restrictive. It's going to feel like a treat, like a gift to myself.

I'm kind of blending a couple of things here. But when we spend our day thinking we can't eat food, and the food that we have to eat, to lose weight, is kind of not the food we want to eat. If that all piles up to that evening of feeling like you're out of control, at some point in your day, feeling like you're going to lose control, because we don't want to be restricted.

Versus, if you spend your day choosing foods that you actually do want to eat, and working on how you think about them, to create positive feelings about them. Then, you're not using willpower. Like my example about the salad; if I'm thinking, and I'm using salad because that's why for lunch today, guys, I ate a really good salad that I love.

But you know, if I'm thinking how fantastic the salad is going to be, I can't wait to eat it. I'm not using willpower to eat a salad. It's the natural choice to eat the salad. If I've spent all morning telling myself how delicious it is, and how crunchy it's going to be, and how good the cheese is going to taste on it. And somebody said, “Hey, you want to go to the drive-through, instead?” I would probably say, “You know what? I'm okay today. Like, I've got something really good my lunch kit.”

Versus spending my time thinking, well, I have to eat a salad for lunch because I'm trying to lose weight. Which is how we often talk to ourselves about it right? Then, if somebody said, “Hey, let's go to out,” I'd be like, “Yeah, let's go out.” Because I don't want to be restricted by the thing, I've been thinking horrible, horrible thoughts about.

Kristi: And you just really sort of drove home, in such a practical way, that I think so many of the listeners can relate to. That idea that our thoughts are very much either create or influence whatever camp you're in, how we feel. And that we don't have to always believe every one that is there. And our emotions, because they're influenced or shaped or created by our thoughts, are something over which we have so much more agency than most of us, you know, have learned or most of us feel much of the time.

Particularly when it comes to changing a habit or changing how we're eating. So, I'm imagining somebody listening to this going, “Okay, that sounds great. I don't want to use willpower. I would really love to just sort of let restriction, as a paradigm, go to the wayside.” They hear like, “Okay, so if I can talk to myself on purpose, in the way that Siobhan is suggesting with, you know what? I choose the salad. I know, there's some amazing things on it that I really like,” no matter if it's the salad that you have, it's sort of a loss the taste for, or a salad that's like absolutely delicious and scrumptious.

If they can, on purpose be telling themselves things and thinking about this in a way that feels abundant or feels like agency or feels just like okay; I deserve this out. This is amazing. This is exactly what I want. That sounds beautiful.

But I can picture them also saying, “Okay, so how do I just tell myself that, if it's just that easy? How do I tell myself that when really, deep down, the truth is,” and I'm doing air quotes here, for people who are listening and can't see, “The truth is like, I really do just want to go that drive-thru. Like, I don't really want a salad.”

I can tell myself this, but I may have thoughts that come in that I think I believe more. Like, what would you suggest for somebody who just thinks it's almost too good to be true?

Siobhan: Totally, I think it takes practice. You know, I totally agree with you, that for a lot of you listening, you're going to be like, “Well, that sounds too good to be true, or I don't think that'll work for me.” That's only because we've all been taught that the experience of the food comes from the food itself. We've been taught that it's, for me, the food I struggled with the most was French fries. In my mind, it was the French fries that were so appealing, I could not control myself around.

Kristi: Alright, so I want to interrupt you, just to point out like for everybody listening, what you just said, it's like a huge altering paradigm there. We've all been taught that our experience of the food comes from the food itself. I want everybody to like maybe even rewind that and listen to that again, and then continue on. Because that's a big deal, that I think it's a very easy to overlook piece of what you're saying.

Siobhan: Yeah, it's huge. It really is huge, because we think, if like you're looking at French fries versus the salad, and if we assume the appeal of the food comes from the food itself, and we've lived in this North American culture of food, then yes, the French fries are always going to be higher than the salad.

I talk about pedestal foods. What I picture is our brain puts foods on a pedestal. So, for me, French fries were up on a pedestal. I like to think there's like spotlight shining on it. I like to think there's like a choir going like Ahh. So, every time I brain gets exposed to those French fries when they were up on that pedestal, it's like oh, we need those. It would prioritize them over anything else. There was nothing that could hold a flame to those French fries when they're on the pedestal.

Now, here's the thing, especially when we're talking about French fries, right? It's not that every single French fry is pedestal worthy. Like, in my mind, I'm like, and there's so much we can talk about this. We don't have time in one episode to cover everything. But when you think about it, those French fries, they're playing a different role.

When my brain was really craving French fries. It wasn't that I had a desperate potato deficiency in my body that I needed to fill. It was that I hadn't been caring for myself. I was telling myself stories about how busy I was, how far behind I was, how I wasn't getting everything done. It made me totally stressed out, and I didn't have any other coping strategies other than taking a break at a drive-thru and eating French fries; is really the like very short version of what it all boils down to.

When I would go thinking, oh my gosh, they're going to be so delicious. I just need them right now. I have no option but to go eat them. You know what, 70% of the time, when I actually got them, they were actually disappointing, right? Like they're not hot and crispy. They're not fresh, they're sometimes soggy, sometimes undercooked. Yet, you eat them anyways, right? It wasn't like I was leaving the soggy ones behind.

Because in my mind, I'm like, but they are this thing on this pedestal. It's such a big deal that I'm eating them right now. Back when the French fries were up on the pedestal, for me, if I went to a restaurant and ordered a salad, the salad was like way off the pedestal. Sometimes it was like in a ditch beside the pedestal.

So, if I ordered a salad, it took so much willpower, and I felt like I probably needed a gold star because I'd done something so good. Then guess what would happen? On another day, like a day or two later, I don't know, the fries, because I felt like I was just winning. Because I'd ordered this salad, that I keep in a ditch in my brain.

The thing is, it wasn't the fries, like the fries sometimes sucked, right? It was my memory of times where the fries were really good. It was my memory of the sort of hit that I got from them, that like the dopamine hit. It was my memory of the break it gave me, because honestly, that was a big reason, ultimately is it was the only time in my day where I got to sit alone and nobody talked to me.

It was like so many layers that my brain was putting on to these French fries. It was trying to help mem for sure. But it had mistakenly chosen the wrong thing that was helpful out of the experience, and attached. Then there's also you know, there's cultural experiences, like growing up and not really probably eating much fast food. So, when you did get to go have fast food, and you got to have French fries, it was like so delicious and so exciting.

All of those are bundled up into that food, that's up on the pedestal for you. Recognizing it's not actually the food that puts it on the pedestal, it's you; it's your brain. An example to prove this, is that I've given you a big long description about French fries, there will definitely be people listening to this podcast are like, what is she going on about French fries?

Like, that's not what should be up there. It's Oreo® cookies or something else, right? Like, and everybody's going to be different on what's on the pedestal, because everybody has different life experiences. Everybody has different preferences. Everybody has different cultural experiences, thoughts.

That's what's going to influence what's up on the pedestal for you. When you can acknowledge that it's not the food, and you start to play with it and you're like; Okay, you know, if my brain is telling me how fantastic and wonderful and delicious French fries are all the time, and that's not helping me my weight loss goals. Well, then I need to talk to myself, like add into the story.

I have a brain that will probably always tell me that they're delicious and always the best idea. What it takes then, is me saying well, you know what? Yeah, they're okay. But like, after the first one, they taste kind of pasty. Which is true, when you actually pay attention to what they taste like, when you're eating them and focusing, instead of just eating them super quick.

Or, you know, yeah, but they're, you know, often they're soggy. That brings those French fries down, maybe it turns off the spotlights on them, maybe it quiets the choir. And then, you just keep working so that you bring it down, and at the same time you start working on what you're talking about for the things you do want to be eating to help your weight loss.

Number one, is you make sure the food you want to be eating, to help your weight loss, is good food that you like. Because again, we're talking about what's sustainable. Then you start talking to yourself about; yeah, you know, actually I feel really good after I eat that salad. That was really delicious. I can't believe I can eat this, and also lose weight.

These are thoughts I've used for myself, that it starts to lift it up. You can start feeling excited about the food you're eating to lose weight, without using willpower. And, you don't feel restricted when you're using it that way.

Kristi: Yes. I think that puts, the way you're describing this so perfectly, it puts people back into the driver's seat for their own their own bodies, their own health. What I was thinking, as you're talking about this is, you know, I love that you pointed out that not everybody will have French fries on the tip of their pedestal.

But if you can put anything on the pedestal, and you can put anything in a ditch, so to speak, and if you can better understand your food choices, in terms of how they actually taste, how much actual pleasure’s there, how you feel during, how you feel after, by slowing down and paying attention. It seems like those, kind of counterintuitive things, where you're using your mind and your emotions to make choices, those are going to be the things that help you with that sustainability.

So, that you are not basically putting together willpower and restriction, as like the equation of like willpower, as long as they have enough of it plus, a good dose of restriction equals sustainable body change. Then you will avoid that.

What I'm thinking is right now, is if you could go back in time, say twenty years, and tell your twenty-year ago self, something that today is just sort of probably foundational and normal for you to think about, but that would have been amazing for the younger you to hear, when it comes to control around food, or around body, or something, what do you think it might be?

Siobhan: Hmm, I have a lot that I would like to tell her. I think the biggest thing is that I would tell her is, “Don't get so focused on the food, work on understanding what's underneath it.” Because that's really what it all comes down to. It is rarely that that actual food is just so appealing that you can't control yourself around it.

It's almost always, there's something else. There's an emotion that you don't want to feel, self-doubt. Definitely like, when I picture myself, as you know, the early twenties through med school and stuff, like so much self-doubt. Of like, who you are and where you are in the world. Sometimes it's just stress and the lack of space to care for yourself. Sometimes it's people-pleasing, of like trying to live your life to make others happy and worrying you're not. Like, these are deep topics, right?

They manifest with the food. I think anytime we get like where we're like, “Okay, I'm eating, and just need to stop eating.” We get really focused on the eating; we're missing so much. We're going to be using willpower for just like hanging out, right in that eating space.

As much as possible, just being compassionate and be like; okay, I noticed that I'm eating, I wonder what's going on? What is this, really? What am I trying to fix with this? Why am I eating this food now? And, trying to go and figure out more the foundational causes.

I think if my 20-year-old self had learned that, maybe she wouldn't have struggled with her weight in the same way. Maybe she would have been a lot kinder to herself, because I don't think I particularly was for a lot of years.

Kristi: I think so many people listening can relate to all the things you said, and this is for physicians and non-physicians alike, just that, you know, that profound self out, and you know, the idea of like sort of repetitive recurrent people-pleasing tendencies, showing up in food choices or showing up in weight.

I imagine with your clients, you do a lot of coaching on things that seem like they are so far away from actually food, itself, because these are the deeper issues in their lives, they are more the root causes. So, on that note, I mean, I know this is more like classically at the beginning of a podcast question, but what drew you to integrating coaching with, you know, obesity medicine and all the work you do?

Siobhan: Yeah, it was because I couldn't find the full answer in obesity medicine. You know, when I look back at when I started doing obesity medicine, it was a combination of realizing as a family physician, that the advice we'd gotten in med school like, eat less exercise more, didn't help any my patients.

I had been in practice long enough, and nobody had ever come back and said, “Oh my gosh, thank you so much for telling me to stop eating so much and do more exercise. It's been life changing,” like never. I started obesity medicine partly for that, because I'm like there has to be a better way to serve my patients.

And, so much of what we do in family medicine is lifestyle related. It's related to eating, related to physical activity. But also, I was struggling with my own weight and my own eating. I did obesity medicine thinking; okay, I'll find the answers here. Then, what I found is, I found answers, I did lose some weight myself. I also, you know, helped people lose weight. But what was happening in my weight management program with my patients, is they had been losing weight, and then they started to struggle.

It was the consistency piece. The, “I'm finding it hard to stick to the eating plan.” So, that's where I got really interested. I also was trying to eat low carb, and yet, I kept eating carbs. I'm like, the whole French fry thing. I'm like, why am I doing this? I know exactly what it's doing to me. I know, it's not good. You’ve got to keep doing it.

So, I started just getting really interested in like, why is it that we follow these habits? What is it that gets in our way of being consistent long-term? And, that's what brought me to the coaching approach. When I started to learn the coaching tools, I was able to apply them in my own life, and the whole French fry thing, in the span of three days, I was able to just turn it around. They just don't bother me in the same way anymore. Which is crazy when like, it was years of me trying to figure that out.

Then, I was able to start teaching them to my obesity medicine patients, and teaching them the coaching level, the mindset level, beyond just like the science to help them build consistency. All along, when I started doing obesity medicine, I wanted to do something for physicians, because I knew what it was like to be a physician.

Particularly a physician in a small community, where it didn't feel okay to go to a public weight loss program, and say, “Hey, I'm really struggling with my weight,” because there's this stigma. I think it's mainly internal for physicians, where we should know what to do, we shouldn't be struggling because we're a physician.

So, that's where I came to doing the coaching work with physicians, is because there are a lot of physicians that really, really struggle with their eating and really are tough on themselves, because they do. I want to make sure that they have opportunity to not struggle, where they learn tools that we didn't get taught in medical school, that work. That work when you're super busy, because that's the other piece right? Finding time in the midst of a busy schedule.

Kristi: Oh, my gosh, yeah, you said that so perfectly. I think, for the listeners who are hearing us talk back and forth about this, this is something that Siobhan has been working on for a long time. This is not something that just you blink, and in five minutes, you sort of reform all of your thinking. Like she was saying, it does take practice. But it's so effective that it doesn't take twenty-five years of practice.

One of the sort of fun facts, for Siobhan and I, is that one of… I think it might have been… We met by total coincidence, sitting at a life coaching conference. It was the first life coaching conference that I had attended, while I was in training, and we just happened to be sitting next to each other. There may have been a handful of other physicians there, but I was sitting next to you. I just remember thinking it was so interesting that at that point in time, I didn't know very many physicians in the coaching world.

Siobhan: Yeah. I didn't know any at that point. I went to that conference, feeling very nervous. Sitting down and then yeah, we happened to be sitting together, and I was like, oh, there's somebody else. Then there were a few other ones at that conference, but it's small group compared to what it is now, for sure.

Kristi: Absolutely. Well, as people are listening to this, if they are interested in learning more, can you share just a little bit about how you work with people and where people can find you? Of course, if there's anything else you want to add, you're welcome to.

Siobhan: Sure. One of the easiest ways to kind of hear more about what I teach, is on my podcast which is called, The Weight Solutions for Physicians Podcast. And I'm about to record the 200th episode, which I'm excited about. I hit 200.

Kristi: Congratulations. That’s amazing.

Siobhan: I know. Then, for physicians who want help and want to thrive in their weight loss, I offer a program called Thrive Academy for Physicians. It's a six-month program where we use all of the approaches I've been talking about, but obviously more, and really work on creating that thriving in your weight loss. Using customer approach and also thriving in life, because they go together.

We kind of referenced that in this; you can't silo your weight loss and assume I'm just going to like be totally burnt out, and barely hanging on, and then I will just magically lose all my weight and keep it off. Doesn't work. You need to work on, address both, and they both support and influence each other.

People can find out more information for that at thrivephysicians.ca. If you want to reach out to me on Facebook® or social media, I'm at Dr. Siobhan Key.

Kristi: That is perfect. For those of you who are driving or exercising, and you cannot write this down fast enough, if you just go to the show notes, you'll be able to click and link directly and find Shavon everywhere. Thank you, so much. I'm so grateful for the work that you're doing.

I'm just so glad that we happened to be sitting next to one another, in that conference, and then I've been able to follow the work you've been doing. So, thank you for the work you're doing. And, thank you for coming on the podcast.

Siobhan: Well, thank you.

If you want to learn more about how to better understand your habits, stop feeling reactionary, and get back into the proverbial driver’s seat with your habits, you’ll want to join my email list. Which you can find linked in the show notes. Or, if you go to habitsonpurpose.com, you’ll find it right there.

And, if you’re serious about taking this work deeper, and going from an intellectual understanding to off-the-page implementation, I offer coaching in two flavors: Individual deep-dive coaching with a somatic and cognitive approach. And, a small group coaching program. The small group is currently for women physicians only, and comes with CME credits.

You can be the first to learn more about both, the individual or group coaching options, by getting on the email list.

Thanks for listening to Habits On Purpose. If you want more information on Kristi Angevine or the resources from the podcast, visit www.habitsonpurpose.com. Tune in next week for another episode.

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