How to learn the life changing skill of intuitive eating with music

Dec 04, 2023

Recently I had the honor of being interviewed by Katie Hake, Registered Dietitian and Fitness Professional. She is passionate about helping women in their 20’s and 30’s discover the freedom of Intuitive Eating so that you can live a life of joy and confidence. 


Fun fact, we actually had baby boys on the same day, just hours apart and when we found that out we had an instant connection! 


As we started chatting, we discovered that there were some mind-blowing similarities between the skill of intuitive eating and learning an instrument. In fact, when you learn the cello, you essentially do some “cross-training” for intuitive eating. The reason for this is because of the deep, core principles of intuitive eating, such as trusting yourself, building up a new self image and track record of success of who you are. 

Click on your preferred link below to listen to this mind-blowing interview, or keep scrolling to read the interview at your own pace!







Welcome to the show!! Tell us a little bit more just about who you are, the work that you do and would love to also hear. What is your story when it comes to food and fitness? 



Absolutely! I am a cello coach and I have a business called Inner Voice Institute of Music. So that really is a story all in and of itself, which will give you a little bit about my background. So I'll start with that. 


So I've been playing the cello for almost two decades now. And it feels like it's really integrated into my life. I can't imagine my life without it, to be honest. And the sound of the cello, it's like breathing to me. It's the reason I play. And I will never stop because of that beautiful sound.


When I was about 13 years old, though, I almost quit the cello. 


So it was about February of that year, and I had a competition the very next month. I was not ready for it at all. I was supposed to have, I believe, five selections memorized, ready to go, rehearsed with the pianist, and I had none of them memorized. I sat down in my rose themed room and I remember just sitting there with my cello and feeling paralyzed, like not being able to even play a note. 


I looked outside, and with living in Canada it was very dreary and cold and dark outside at 5 p.m. I just put my cello down. I didn't want to try, and I went downstairs to my mom and I told her, I feel like quitting. I'm not ready. And she told me, okay, you can do this, but I want you to remember how many years and hours you've put into this instrument. And she encouraged me to try just one more time. So I went back upstairs and I decided, okay, I'll just play one note. One note will be enough for now. 


So I played the lowest note on the cello, and I closed my eyes and I felt the vibrations of the cello just going through me, and I felt inspired to continue because of that sound. So the cello itself brought me back into playing when I had thought that it was the last day I would ever play. So fast forward to the actual day of the performance. That's the day that I decided that the cello was my inner voice, my own voice that I could creatively express myself, work through emotions, work through tough situations that I was going through in that period of my life. As you probably remember, 13 is a tough age, so the cello really helped me through those years. 


I remember the day of the performance, I was standing backstage and I thought to myself, I'm going to pick one person to feel something. I want to tell them the story of this piece. So as I walked on stage and I chose my person, it was an elderly lady. She was sitting in the corner of the auditorium, and afterwards I just felt like I was able to tell not only my story, but process my own emotion and give her the gift of musical expression through the performance. And that's how my studio essentially came to be. Inner Voice Institute of Music, because my goal is to help other people who are also struggling with processing emotions, feeling safe and trusting themselves to find that inner voice, change their identity, and then become someone who they can trust, who they can be proud of. Feel this inner confidence. 


So that's a little bit about my story of how I almost quit the cello and how that influenced the the name of my of my company. 



I love that, and thank you so much for sharing that, because I think so many of our listeners can resonate with that. Piece of really just struggling with their identity and figuring out, especially when they're not dieting anymore. It's like, what if I'm not the healthy person or, you know, the the exercise nut, whatever you want to call it, whatever label you put on it. 


Who am I and how do I even express myself? Or what do I talk about when I'm no longer talking about my body or my exercise or my food? So it's super interesting. 


And just so listeners know, I forgot to say this in the beginning, we both had babies on the exact same day, which is just wild little baby boys, and we met through a mutual entrepreneur group and it's been so fun. Here we are. Gosh, almost seven months later. Which is crazy and just experiencing how when a season of life it shifts we're also in this new identity. 


I want to dive right in to that piece and kind of build on it, because today we're going to focus specifically on the brain, learning patterns and mindfulness and how that can apply to learning different things. 


So how does learning the cello specifically engage different parts of your brain? Or talk to us a little bit about the cognitive benefits you mentioned. Like what is actually happening in the brain when you're learning that new skill? 



Yeah for sure. So there are quite a few ways actually that the cello and playing the cello develops the brain. It's like cross training for intuitive eating. So first of all, it develops the entire brain at the same time. So what that means is when you're playing the cello, both the right side, the creative side of the brain and the left side are being activated simultaneously. What that means for you is the corpus callosum is strengthened. That's the part of the brain that goes between the two sides of the brain. This is like a bridge between the logical and the creative. 


So when you're you're making decisions based on who you want to be and the kind of person you want to fuel correctly, you want to trust yourself, you want to care for. If you're able to take a step back from the logical side and kind of analyze what's happening, what are your thoughts, what's going on in your brain and feel the emotions of the situation, you're able to make decisions that will impact your future in the best way. And the best way to do this is by having a medium to train those two parts of the brain at the same time. 


That way, the connections between them are lightning fast, and you're able to trust yourself with the decisions that you're making. 



That's so interesting because we talk a lot about that, especially in my program. But in intuitive eating, a lot of it is separating the emotional side of eating from the physical side of eating and really taking a step back to understand both sides of that. Like you said, if I know both of these sides and I understand them and I can separate them, then I can make a decision that actually aligns with that feels more attuned and aligned with my values. 


So you're training both parts of the brain at the same time, and the cello is kind of this, like training tool, I guess, is what you're saying? 



Yes, exactly. And one of the ways that I've actually seen this in my own, like, fitness and health journey is, I have always been incredibly enthusiastic about my physical health, even though when I was a teenager I did the whole yo yo dieting routines, and just not taking care of myself properly. 


However, in the last 2 to 3 years, I feel like I've learned the skill of intuitive eating and can truly trust myself now. The cello has actually played a really big part in this for me. Let me explain.


Did you know that when you listen to music at the speed of 45 beats per minute, you eat slower and you enjoy your food more. So if you think about like a clock, the seconds passing by is 60 beats per minute. So imagine that tempo in your mind. 


You have an experience with the food that fulfills you emotionally. Physically. It makes you feel happier after eating so that you're not questioning yourself or eating out of guilt or binging you. Just you just feel this calmness. So what I've done in the last probably three years is actually play the cello a little bit before a stressful meal. 


So, for example, if you find that let's say dinners are really hard for you because you have all your kids around you and you really want to be able to enjoy your food. And you know that by sitting and truly savoring each bite and enjoying your meal will help you feel more satiated and happy about your food. What you can actually do is play music at that level, or that speed, and the cello is actually one of the ways you can do this, because it has the right frequencies and the right type of music. 


It's very lyrical, so you can slow yourself down and feel calm as you're eating. 



That's so interesting. I love that example, and it's such a simple thing that it sounds like can really make this subconscious level impact of just slowing down. 


We're so fast, we're so speedy. We're so go, go, go in our day to day life. I think a lot of our listeners can relate to it being hard to slow down. It's hard to calm yourself, especially before a meal. We kind of just dive right in and want to just. For many listeners, I know it's like, let me just power through this meal so I can get back to doing whatever it is I was doing, get back to work or, you know. Dealing with the kids or whatever it is. 


So are there specific cognitive skills that playing the cello can enhance? I'm thinking your memory, your cognition, like focus. Because you mentioned that it's a very creative process. So how how can it influence those aspects? 



It 100% can. You said it perfectly. It enhances your focus and your memory. Those are some of the main benefits that the cello can give you. And it's part of that whole discussion we had a few minutes ago about the whole brain being developed. 


Let’s dive deeper into focus. I once heard an entrepreneur say “Focus is: Follow One Pursuit Until Success. It's being truly focused on one thing so that you can have success. It's going one mile deep, one inch wide instead of a mile wide and an inch deep. So that's one side of what focus is over the long term. 


Another way that focus is in our lives is when we're, let's say, working, having a deep focus like Cal Newport talks about in his book Deep Work. You have this intensity of focus where when you are done, you feel tired. You feel happy though. So this is another part of focus, more like the short term. 


So with the cello, it helps you become focused faster. You can actually become focused and get into this flow state in only 90 seconds. But it's a skill that has to be learned. Here’s how:


The cello, it uses your entire brain. So as some students have told me, they cannot think of anything else when they're playing, their focus is truly on what they're doing, and they find that when they then go into another area of their lives, they're able to focus intensely without distraction. 


So when they're working, they're not thinking about their problems at home. They're truly focusing on their work, and they're seeing results because of it. And they're able to get into flow state really fast, like within those 90 seconds


On the other spectrum of things, when they're spending time with their family or they're with their kids playing on the floor, they are focused on their kids, they're not thinking about work, and they're not thinking about the problems at work. And it's because they've trained their brains in order to get into that focus mode immediately. 


So that's one of the major cognitive benefits of learning the cello. 


It's almost like for many people listening as well, they've only had exercise as a way to express themselves, or running since it is often considered as the best way to get that “runner's high”. They get in kind of that flow state when they're training. So this could be learning this instrument really could be an example or another tool. Let's say if you're at a different space where maybe you're injured, and you can't use exercise in the same way. 


That makes me think of one of our clients on our small group call last night, who was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and recognizing that she cannot move her body in the same way that she used to, and just movement looks differently. And so I think it's so important for us to have different tools to cope, to learn, that there's such a bigger world beyond food and fitness. 


We expand our thinking when we embrace a non diet lifestyle! There's so many other things that you can do like learn an instrument. 


What about stress relief? You mentioned deep flow focus. How do your clients find that it helps with that aspect? 



Great question. So we all probably have experienced the effects of listening to music and then feeling better about life. There's something that happens in your brain when you listen to music, and it's a reaction of dopamine going off. 


Now, dopamine is a neurotransmitter. So what that means is it takes information from one part of the brain and can move it to another part of the brain. That's what a neurotransmitter does. 


Now it's also a chemical that when your brain is flooded with it, you feel happier, you feel excited. And when you listen to music, your dopamine levels go up by 10% within the first 9 seconds, depending on, of course, the song that you're listening to. 


When you actually play an instrument, it's like fireworks going off in your brain. 


So if you were to listen to music that's like a match being lit. You can see the flame in your head. But when you play the music physically yourself, there's so many other things going on in your brain as you're playing, like the motor function, the muscle memory, the physical feeling of the instrument in your hands, the vibrations: it makes dopamine skyrocket. And it actually goes up by 65% and stays elevated for 24 hours. 


So what that means for you, is that you can play the cello for even just three minutes, and you'll feel happier. You'll feel more enthusiastic. And the best part about it is you'll feel more motivated. 


So scientists have found that when your brain is elevated with dopamine, you're actually more motivated to take action. And when you take action and you do hard things, like maybe you've been trying to finish a project or start something new, or start a business for that matter. You have motivation to go do that hard thing. 


Now that builds your identity as someone who can do hard things. This then builds your confidence, and then all of a sudden, when you look back like maybe a year later, you're transformed. You can't even recognize yourself. All of a sudden, you're the kind of person who takes care of themselves, who has an emotional outlet, has a way to positively produce dopamine in their brain, in your brain. 


A lot of us, I think, go to food to find these emotional benefits. And yes, food is a gift. I 100% believe that it can be a wonderful source of joy. But there's so many other beautiful things out there that when you have this control over knowing how to produce the emotions you want, you don't have to rely on only food and exercise. 


Like, as Katie said, there's so much more out there and it can be a source of joy. And instead of a source of stress, when you have other ways of taking care of yourself in this way. 



Yeah, there's more tools in your toolbox which ultimately is more sustainable. You're more resilient, you're more able to again cope and take care of yourself, respond to what your body's needing because you have a variety of things to reach for. I love that. 

I'm curious, how might the discipline of learning an instrument like the cello align with some of the principles of intuitive eating, or even body image or body awareness? 



That is a wonderful question. And when you included that in some of the questions you were you were curious about, I started thinking about this more because it's an aspect of playing the cello that I've never really dived into, but all of a sudden it's opening up to me all these ways that you become more aware of what your body needs. So I like to think about our needs as humans in three different categories. So we have emotional needs, we have physical needs and we have spiritual needs. And with music, all three of these can actually be covered. This gives you a sense of wholeness. So to come back to just the physical side of things, you actually do have a higher sense of what your body is doing. So as you're learning to play the cello and you feel the instrument, you're figuring out how to produce a beautiful sound and you make small changes in order to produce this gorgeous sound. You are aware of, for example, what's your back doing? Where are your arms placed? Where is your thumb on the bow? Even how much vibration are you feeling under your fingers to figure out? Is the sound actually vibrating to its fullest extent? You become a lot more aware of your posture, your body in space, and this gives the brain the ability to actually be aware of its needs better. 


You're more aware of your physical needs as a result, because you're just aware of what your body is doing, and it actually enhances fine motor skills. The arch in your hands is also supported. So if you're someone who's family may struggle with osteoporosis or arthritis or anything like that, the cello can support those basic needs that we have in order to thrive as we age. 


So your coordination improves, your spatial awareness, posture, and then most importantly, just the awareness of what you need physically. And then that translates into being aware of what you need emotionally and spiritually and so on. 


Yeah, it all comes back to that body attunement and recognizing like what am I feeling? And then responding, what am I feeling and what do I need based on that feeling. And I can't remember the statistics off the top of my head, but there's definitely research to support, for example, people who practice yoga or do that kind of slow flow type of movement, they have greater body awareness. 


And when you have this greater body awareness of just how my body is positioned in space, how do I move about this world? You actually have an improved body image because you walk into a room and it's not like, oh, am I going to fit in there? There's less of those thoughts because you just know how your body exists in space. 


So I think that's really interesting to just think about how, okay, playing an instrument, I'm actually forcing myself to feel the physicality of what's going on in my body. 


Do you find that or I'm curious, like what type of results or things that your clients get really excited about because you work with littles all the way to adults? What do they experience that they get excited about? 


Well, one of the main things that I personally see in them from the first lesson to let’s say a year in, is this identity shift. They have this confidence in their ability to learn, and it comes from building up that track record that they're capable of learning something like the cello. So I will admit, the cello is a hard instrument because it uses the left hand in a certain motion, vertically, and it uses the bow with your right hand horizontally. 


It uses a lot of coordination, so it is a hard instrument to learn, but when they actually get to the point where they're feeling free, even within four weeks of playing, they all of a sudden have this lightbulb moment. 


I remember one student, her name is Erin, and she was playing a piece called Jasmine Flower. She had been playing the cello for about three months at this point, and she had kind of gone in between like, oh, this is really for me. Should I continue? and just kind went back and forth. And in that lesson, I challenged her to try to play without the music. Now she's the kind of person who really relies on the visual image of the paper in order to know what to play.


But I just told her, just take the paper away. If you make a few mistakes here and there, that really doesn't matter. Because what we want to create here is a feeling of confidence and calmness. So we took the paper away and for the first time, as she closed her eyes, I saw this almost serene calmness just flooding her face. And since that lesson, her confidence in her ability to learn and even memorize music went up exponentially. I see a different person now. 


She's been playing the cello for two and a half, almost three years now, and she's a different person in the best way. Her daughter actually plays the violin and her daughter continues playing because of seeing her mom and seeing her mom continuing to do hard things. It's beautiful. 


So to summarize, confidence is the biggest shift I see in my students.



And I think so many of our listeners who dive into this intuitive eating space, it's practice. And I said this on our call last night like it's called practice for a reason because you have to practice. And so I just love this crossover example of just thinking about how I can build confidence in other areas of my life to prove to myself, to, you know, to bridge that gap, to build up more evidence of yes, I can learn hard things. I can, you know, finish what I start, I am capable of learning a new skill, whether it's a physical skill like the cello or something else. 


But again, you just mentioned it's so much more than the physical piece of it. There's a lot of different aspects to it. When I do that in one space, I can actually transfer that skill in other areas of my life, which is so powerful because we want to be better in all areas, not just one usually. 


Yeah, exactly. And the cello is like a multitasking catalyst for enhancing all the areas of your life. Because if you think about it, your brain is the computer that controls your entire body, it controls your entire life, essentially, because the actions that create your life are backed by the thoughts, and those thoughts are backed by emotions. And often the emotions are then backed by the actions. So it's this loop. But if the computer has software that is at a low level and it doesn't match where you want to be in life, then that computer will not be able to keep up with you. So what you need to do is upgrade the brain software. 


I call it billion dollar brain software from a quote from Zig Ziglar. So he's one of my favorite motivational speakers. And what he asks his audiences is, do you own $1 billion racehorse? And then if no one raises his hands, their hands, he asks, do you own a $10 dog? How about a $5 cat? And then he asks, would you let them stay up all night drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and just not taking care of themselves? The answer is no. You would never let $1 million racehorse do that. You would never let a $5 cat do that, for that matter.


 And then he asks, what about a $1 billion body? If we wouldn't do that for animals and we would take care of them really well, why don't we take care of ourselves in that same way? And then he continues to say, if you've got your health, you've got everything, or at least the chance to get everything. 


So it starts with your brain. When you upgrade your brain to that billion dollar software. Then you have the ability to take care of yourself fully, like in a holistic way, where you're taking care of the emotional, physical and the spiritual. But it starts with the brain. 


Yeah. Recognizing that the brain is everything. And I think that's a huge theme here on the podcast of, you know, if we don't have our mental health, the rest of it doesn't really matter because. That's the foundation. That's the baseline. Like you said, that's the software. This is not a computer podcast, but that is the foundation. If we don't have that, we can't build from there. 


So this has been so fascinating, and I love just hearing you talk about it because you're clearly so passionate about what you do like. It makes me want to learn a new skill like the cello. And so if listeners want to learn more, maybe they're like, okay, like, I never thought I could play an instrument, or maybe they played one when they were younger and they're like, maybe I could get back into it. What? How could they work with you? Where can they find you if they want to learn more? 



Well, the place that I'm most active at the moment is my Instagram channel. So my handle for that is @ine.wilme and you can send me a message there. I love, love, love chatting with anyone who has a love for music. That's all that's truly needed in order to learn the cello. You don't need to be able to play an instrument already. You don't need to be musical or creative. There is something for you in the cello because it's a versatile, multitasking catalyst for enhancing your life. And if you have ever had the inkling of a thought, maybe I want to learn an instrument, then just take action. Do it because you can only gain. You can become a beautiful person who takes care of themselves. Who has that identity of I am worth it and the cello can help you get there. So send me a message on Instagram, just even with the word cello and we can chat there. 



Or voice memos. We love voice memos. We voice memo back and forth all the time about what is your sleep schedule? What are you doing for this? I love it. 


Exactly. It also sounds like the cello would just be really therapeutic. And so I imagine any listeners who have experienced trauma or just are going through some things, and maybe therapy is helping, but you're looking for just another outlet that sounds like playing an instrument. Just sounds like it would be so therapeutic because you're hearing it. 


But like you said, that dopami

ne when you're actually playing it as well. 



Exactly. It gives you a different perspective. And it's the type of therapy where you're not thinking about your problems, but you're working through them anyways. Like if you think about talk therapy, you're talking to a therapist about the problems and you're very inside the situation. It can be hard to get an outside step. A great therapist will obviously encourage you to take that step outside and kind of observe from a distance. 


But with the cello, it immerses you in the music. And music is the language of emotion. It connects to the limbic brain, which is not capable of language. Like if you have to answer the question, why do you love your baby? There's no words for that. If I have to answer that question, I would just get teary and I'd think, I just love him so much. And I know you get that, Katie with the babies the same age. So music, it actually activates the limbic brain so you don't have to think about anything. You don't have to think about words. You can just be you can just feel the emotion. And it's a safe place to feel that emotion. It just gives you a hug. 



We all need a hug. It's funny that you bring up the limbic brain, because I actually talked to my therapist about the limbic brain this week because of all the mom things. It's so interesting. 


This has been so helpful, such a good conversation. And we always love to wrap things up by hearing from you. What is the best thing that's happened to you this week? 


The very first thing that comes to mind is my baby waving for the first time. So two nights ago I was putting him to bed and my husband was sitting on the chair across the room and he said, good night. And then my baby, who was just over my shoulder lifts up his arm, gives this little wave. But it looked very intentional. So that was just the best moment ever. Definitely the highlight of the week!



That is so adorable and I love it. I love it so much. Well, thanks so much for joining the show, and we will be sure to link to her Instagram handle all the things in the show notes so you can learn more. 



Sounds great. Well, thank you so much Katie. This was just a pleasure.

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