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Eating and Emotions: APN Lodge Speaker Series with Roni Maislish

July 15, 2021
All Points North Lodge

Laurie Watter:

Hi, I'm Laurie Watter, the director of family relations at All Points North Lodge in Edwards, Colorado. And I am excited to have my guest today, Roni Maislish, a clinician from Israel. And Roni and I met through LinkedIn. And I think he's got a great topic that he's going to be with us today to speak about, which is called the emotional aspect of obesity and overweight. So welcome, Roni.

Roni Maislish:

Thank you very much. It's great, great being here.

Laurie Watter:

And it's... You feel so close, which is really, really, really nice. I think COVID has helped us reconnect with people outside of our immediate area and there are no limits through social media.

Roni Maislish:

Maybe that was the purpose of all of that.

Laurie Watter:

Right. Yeah. I do question what the purpose of all this was. There are many good things that have come from it. We have to continuously look for that.

Laurie Watter:

So I know that you have this area of expertise, looking at the emotional aspect of overeating or obesity. I think you've got a really interesting approach and this is an opportunity for you to share more about the work that you're doing and leave us yearning to hear more.

Roni Maislish:

Hungry for more.

Laurie Watter:

Agreed.

Roni Maislish:

What are you really hungry for? This is one of the questions that, something I'm asking in my workshop. The emotional hunger, so what they're really hungry for.

Laurie Watter:

Right.

Roni Maislish:

Like a change or a healing process. So, there's so many direction I can go, so I'm very exciting to have this conversation and to get to so many people in America and I'm grateful doing that. In my professional, I'm a clinical social worker and psychotherapist. And in the last 15 years I'm working with patient who are struggling with all kind of issues with their relationship with food and eating. I'm calling that relationship with food and eating, because in my work sometime examining what is the different between relationship with food and eating to other kind of relationship like money, spirituality, time. And maybe later I will show you more about that.

Roni Maislish:

And maybe I will just start with saying that I was a fat child myself, struggling with that until I was 29. I was doing dieting, all sort of dieting and losing 30 pounds and gaining those pounds back.

Laurie Watter:

Yo-yo.

Roni Maislish:

Yo-yo, exactly. So we spoke before, so I was addicted to food. What is the feeling of being addicted to something? So I was from very early urge, I think six or seven, addicted to my father food. It was an excellent food and I was a fat child and fat teenager and I was very, I think, in depression, very isolated. And when I was 25 years old, I met my first girlfriend and it's more than I fell in love with her, I became addicted to her. So what is the meaning to become addicted to a person? And what is the connection between addict, to be addicted to a person and addicted to food? So I know both of them.

Laurie Watter:

Right.

Roni Maislish:

So it was a very, very hard relationship. And actually I reborn and I started my new life when this relationship finished after four years, four very, very long years. And back then, it was 21 years ago, I was working in marketing and software, stuff like that. I never imagined that I would become a therapist or even an emotional eating therapist.

Roni Maislish:

But when I, when this relationship stops, I needed to actually learn myself how to live again, how to actually to raise myself again from the beginning. And part of this process that I will stop dieting at the age of 29. So I stopped trying to make wars with my body, makes wars with struggling with the food and eating. And what happened very, very gradually, very, very slowly, I started to lose weight.

Roni Maislish:

So maybe two pound a year and another two pound in a year. So sometime I'm telling people that if you want to lose two pound of your weight, so you need to lose 2000 pounds of something else. It can be a emotion, can be a memory. It can be, I don't know what, it doesn't matter. But I started to lose thousands of my childhood trauma. We spoke about trauma before. So it's not like I, my parents punched me and they sent me to, I don't know where, at the age of eight.

Laurie Watter:

Right.

Roni Maislish:

So it was like a normal, but it wasn't normal. Sometime in my work I'm talking about emotional neglected. So I have a roof, I have money, I had money. I had everything I needed, but I lack the emotional nourishment. All right? Nobody see the life through my eyes. I'm talking a lot of in my work about empathy.

Roni Maislish:

So empathy, it's not sympathy and it's not compassion. It's the ability to look through the other person eyes, through his eyes. There's a song of Depeche Mode named Walking In My Shoes. So no one walked in my shoes and understood from inside of me what I felt. I felt deserted and neglected and sometime I didn't understood what I'm doing here in this house, and I started to gain weight day by day.

Roni Maislish:

So, part of the process that I needed to heal myself was to become a therapist, actually. And in the first few years as a therapist I studied social work, first degree, then Master, then three-year psychotherapy program. I try to help people to become more aware of their feelings, all right? And, but that-

Laurie Watter:

Let's see if we get you back.

Roni Maislish:

Yep.

Laurie Watter:

Okay. So you want to go back a sec?

Roni Maislish:

Yeah. I was talking about awareness.

Laurie Watter:

Okay.

Roni Maislish:

You heard it? Did you hear me saying awareness? So I try to help people to become more aware of the sequence between the event, the feeling and the emotion and the behavior of emotional eating. But after a few years I realized that most of my patient, it doesn't help them to understand the sequence. And they need something else, but I didn't know what they are needed or.

Roni Maislish:

But then accidentally, there's no accident. Eight years ago I changed my supervision and I started to go to another psychology, that she practiced self psychology psychotherapy. And in this [inaudible 00:09:15], the awareness, it's not the center of the healing. So what is the center? So it's more about how to strengths your patient, the empathy, the how you mirror or doing mirroring to your patient, how you can understand this patient from inside of him. How you let him lean on you. How can you make him feel that you are very, very close to him?

Roni Maislish:

So, most of my patient in the last eight years, they will not tell me that they more understand or are more aware, but they will say another bunch of words like, "I have been more centering feeling of myself. Maybe I feel my emotional independent now after many, many year." They will use the word anchor, how they are more grounded to the surface and all those kind of words. And sometimes they will feel that there is something is changing in them, but they will, it will be very hard for them to understand the process. They will just feel they are more strong, they are more quiet inside and they are living more their life with joyment. Joy. So joy is very important.

Roni Maislish:

So joy, it's not happy. So they're not laughing and making jokes all the time, but they have this kind of purpose in their life. They are going to the right direction, I think. And if they are doing all those of these changes, so we can understand what, that we did something very valuable.

Roni Maislish:

So if I can summarize self psychology maybe in one word, it's a mother or father, or it's a good uncle or good aunt. It's actually to help the patient or help people to restore their vitality, to restore their self, to restore their nature. Kohut, he was the father of self psychology, called his second book The Restoration of the Self.

Roni Maislish:

So we want to continue the good part in our patient and go from there. We are not fixing anything, because we believe that people are good inside. They're not fixing and changing. We trying to... It's like a startup of the car. Now we have those buttons that we can start the car, but back then it was a starter. So we are trying to start, to restart actually, the process of growing of our patient.

Roni Maislish:

And there's a lot of some crossword in my work and to become a therapist, an emotional eating therapist. 2008, I participated in a workshop in California of Geneen Roth. She wrote the book, When Food is Love. And I think after visiting her, I realized that this is my goal in life, to help, not just, when we talking sometime in my field, we use the word eating disorder. So, eating disorder is, sometimes it's anorexia and bulimia, but I'm asking the question, who work with the chubbies? Who help this chubby? Who help those 99% that they are not anorexia or bulimia and they are not 600 pounds weight?

Roni Maislish:

So, most of the people are quite in the middle and they don't have enough emotional support. And talking about addiction to food, I think also there's not enough understanding what is addiction all about. So I'm very interesting in that topic, and there's a psychotherapist, I think in our last conversation I mentioned the name, Michael Eigen from New York.

Laurie Watter:

Right.

Roni Maislish:

Michael Eigen wrote some very interesting books and chapters about actually this area. And one of them is emotional starvation and the other, it's toxic nourishment. So he believed that beneath of all of our addiction, doesn't matter if it's for food or alcohol or sex or drugs, it's our addictions to toxic love. So we try to heal our relationship in those kinds of area. And of course it's all about trauma and our very early trauma in relationship sometime with our parents and sometimes with other people. Some, just stopping for now here, maybe you have some other questions.

Laurie Watter:

Yeah. No, I think it's all so interesting and I really, I like when you talk about a hunger for what?

Roni Maislish:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Laurie Watter:

Not necessarily a hunger for food, but what are you really feeling hungry for? What's lacking. And I think part of that is, well, I actually think that is an awareness. I think that's a lot of where change starts, is if there is an awareness. But yeah, I would love for you to talk a little bit more about that piece of it, the analogy of the relationship to food with the relationship to other people or to love.

Roni Maislish:

Yeah. So maybe I will tell you, in the Geneen Roth retreat, 12 years ago, because I started to think about this topic, emotional hunger, emotional starvation then. We work with the food. And in the morning and the in lunchtime Geneen Roth was giving us question about our, during the lunch or during the meal. But in the evening we just ask the question by ourself.

Roni Maislish:

And I remember, I think it was in the fourth night or fifth night, I took a plate, a full plate, and I was sitting down. We were like 60 people. I was the only man of, course, in those kinds of retreat. And I ask myself, "So Roni, how much you are hungry?" I said, "I'm not that hungry." And then I ask myself, "So why did you took this large plate with all of that foods?" Said, "I don't know."

Roni Maislish:

And then, this question just came naturally from inside of me, whatever, I don't know. So Roni, what are you really hungry for? And then I receive an answer, "My brother." My God, what do you mean that you are hungry for your brother? I never thought about that this way. And in that particular night I remember, instead of eating, I wrote him a letter.

Roni Maislish:

So, 12 years passed and still our complexity with this relationship is the same, but it doesn't matter. Because I changed that night and I really understood what is emotional hunger all about. And in the workshop that I'm doing, so it's an exercise of that I'm doing that in a couple. So they are both asking again and again and again, "So what are you really hungry for?" And you answer, and what are you really hungry for?

Roni Maislish:

And maybe on your twenties answer, something very delicate is coming from very, very inside of you and you can think, "Hmm, I never understood that I'm hungry for quiet or vacation or for new meaning in my life." So it's very interesting to do this. So one of the session, most of my workshop are eight session workshop, so one of the session is, it's all about the emotional hunger, emotional starvation. So I'm dedicated one of the session for that.

Roni Maislish:

To your other question, I can give an example, because sometimes I'm asking about choosing food. So I'm working with the buffet and I'm asking about your choosing pattern of food. So a lot of people I can ask them, "So you choose fast or slow?" So most of my patient are choosing very fast their food. And I want, and also they want to make it a little bit slower. And then I'll asking them about another relationship, let's say about shopping, money.

Roni Maislish:

So, how do you spend your money? So most of them, it's very interesting, they going to be very, very accurate with money, very calculated with money, very organized. And they don't understand, so why don't I take this organized energy to food and eating to the buffet? So I'm just giving them some kind of exercise, maybe in the becoming week, try to lose a little bit with the money, just make it a little bit smooth and less control energy and just go with there and see if you can take this controlling energy and transfer it to the food and eating relationship. And a lot of them succeed in this exercise and they can change their relationship with food and eating because they are changing their habits and they're choosing patterns actually.

Laurie Watter:

Mm-mm (affirmative).

Roni Maislish:

So this is just one example of theme that they can investigate it in those, in these dinners, this choosing. I can talk about regret and controlling and God, it doesn't matter.

Laurie Watter:

Right. Right. And I, even after our conversation a couple of weeks ago, it definitely gave me pause to think about that. Do you want a cookie or is there something else that would nourish your soul? What is that about? And I do think a lot about what we need to do is actually slow it down and be more cognizant and have more awareness around our choices, not just with food, with relationships, with the things that we purchase.

Laurie Watter:

And there are a lot of decisions that we make that are more emotional. And I think food is certainly an area that... I would say I choose my food slowly and I spend my money slowly too, but when I really want something, I choose it quickly. And when I really want to buy something, I buy it quickly. So I'm consistent. But no, it does definitely gives me something more to think about. And I think that the workshops that you're talking about are really an interesting way, I mean, we're very aware of intuitive eating and actually really taking time to think about what it is that we want and need. And are you able to compare your model with what we call intuitive eating? It sounds like it's somewhat aligned in some manner.

Roni Maislish:

I think the intuitive eating is, it's not like I'm condemning this technique or stuff like that, but it's, I practice it and see it, it's stay in the food and eating relationship. All right? So we doing some exercise with the food and with taste and smell. So we stayed in the physical [inaudible 00:22:50], all right? As I understand that.

Laurie Watter:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Roni Maislish:

I call my work, my workshop, Mindfulness Meal or Mindfulness Eating, because I like to have those journeys between the relationship with food and eating and other relationship. All right? So it's like journeys back and forth, all right? And I'm using the relationship with food and eating as a door to go inside to other dimension so we can go back and we can feel that we don't need to come back to the food and eating, because it's more interesting to go to other relationship with God, we've seen a relationship with love, when food is love. So, but it's all the time this, I think, journey back and forth. So yeah, this is my work.

Laurie Watter:

And it's very, very interesting. And I do find that we're all on this journey and I think it's so interesting to learn about ourselves and the way in which we think and approach different areas of our life and how so much of what we do is based on our past experiences. And pretty fascinating. And I know that you're going to be in the States. We're hoping to get you out.

Roni Maislish:

Hopefully, yes.

October, November. Yeah.

Laurie Watter:

Yeah. And I really, I appreciate you coming on today. Is there a way that people can get in touch with you or see some of your work?

Roni Maislish:

So again, some of my English material, it's in the LinkedIn, so you can share that with them. And if there are any question, you can send them my email. So they can ask me all sort of question and I will share more information maybe. There is something also in my website that is in English. But I spoke with, few months ago, someone from America, and I told her this material in my website, it's very old, 10 years ago. But she told me, and it was, I was glad and sad at the same time, she told me, "It's still relevant for me."

Laurie Watter:

Well, that's good to know. What is your website?

Roni Maislish:

It's just my name, ronimaislish.com. It's R-O-N-I, M-A-I-S-L-I-S-H. You can share my name.com, yes.

Laurie Watter:

Thank you so much for being with me today.

Roni Maislish:

My pleasure, hopefully to continue our cooperation and collaboration and doing some very interesting stuff together.

Laurie Watter:

That would be wonderful.

Roni Maislish:

Thank you.

Laurie Watter:

Take good care.

Roni Maislish:

Take good care. You too. Bye-bye.

Laurie Watter:

Bye-bye.

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