Do Your Beliefs Lead To Compulsive Eating?

by Courtney on July 17, 2012


Anyone with compulsive eating tendencies has at least a couple strong beliefs about how they relate with food. These beliefs usually go something like this: (some are ones I used to believe about myself, too!)

  • If I go to parties, I can’t help but eat the food there, whatever it is. And I always stuff myself with it.
  • If my partner/mother/daughter/coworker makes delicious food for me, I can never have just some of it, I always eat way too much of it.
  • Cheesecake is my weakness. I can never say no to cheesecake.

There are beliefs like these ones, which have to do with circumstances and people. And then there are general beliefs, which are usually the really long-held ones that we believe and act from constantly:

  • I have been dealing with food addiction all my life, so it will always be a challenge for me.
  • I am a huge emotional eater.
  • When I start eating, I can’t stop.
  • I don’t have the willpower to say no to great food even when I’m not hungry.

These beliefs are causing digestive systems everywhere to be overloaded, just as Greenstar juicers get overloaded when you try to juice sourdough bread.

Believing in our own stories about who we are and what we are and aren’t capable of causes us suffering in body, mind, and spirit.

But the truth is, who we really are is beyond our addictions, dysfunctions, and fears. You may have heard the quote by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Who we truly are at our core is a being who is naturally capable of a balanced, relaxed relationship with food. Somewhere underneath all our stories, we are a person unafraid of food, easily able to say no when we’re not hungry, stop when we’re full, not stuff ourselves, and who gravitates towards healthy foods that nourish. This might sound like the picture of perfection and impossible from where you are, but I am sharing it simply to remind you of your inherent balance. We will all get there in time, so long as we feed ourselves copious amounts of love, kindness, and tenderness along the way.

It is not a matter of, “How do I control my compulsive eating?” It’s a matter of “How can I let go of the beliefs I have that are covering up the true me that does not, and has never, had a compulsive eating issue?”

When we catch ourselves thinking these kinds of thoughts, buying into these belief systems, acting as if they’re true, question that voice.

Really, will food always have to be a challenge for me?

Is it actually true that I don’t know how to take care of myself in other ways than food when I’m not hungry?

What would I do and feel now if I believed I can handle the discomfort or emptiness or pain that may arise when I don’t use food? If I believed I was a person with no issues surrounding eating? That I was perfectly in balance?

Sometimes, the compulsion to eat will drop away completely in that instant of questioning. At the very least, questioning will continue to put cracks in the beliefs. Go on, try it.

What are the beliefs you have about yourself that you have or need to question? What happened when you did? What beliefs replaced them? I’d superbly love to hear from you!



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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Maxfield Wikoff-Witten July 17, 2012 at 8:23 pm

I love your posts

next time you come to slc or PC dinner please? <3


Courtney July 18, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Thanks, Max! I would love to do dinner next time!


Sarah July 18, 2012 at 1:48 am

Thank you!! Loved this!! The wisdom to question what we believe has healed so much in my life, and this is a wonderful reminder to continue the questioning process around issues related to diet, food, and body image.


Courtney July 20, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Yay! <3


Nikki July 18, 2012 at 5:50 am

This is a great post, that really resonated with me. As the self help book says: it’s not what you tell yourself, but what you do, that makes you who you are. Every time a situation comes up, I have the chance to try something different and thereby change my self-image.

The thing I’m struggling most with at the moment, is people around me refusing to give up those believes: “But you LOVE cheesecake!” “But you live for dessert!” “You never used to eat so little” “Only one glass of wine?” etc. Would you have any tips on how to deal with those?


Courtney July 20, 2012 at 5:46 pm

I’m glad you enjoyed, Nikki, and agree with your insight. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what other people think you are like or who you are; it only matters if you believe them and act subsequently. In my experience with those scenarios, you just have to stand up for yourself and let them know your preferences have changed.


Jaymes July 19, 2012 at 11:16 am

“Nobody cares”
“I’m not worth it”
“I don’t matter”
Someone said we get an unconcious negative payoff by thinking these things, i.e. we “need” to be the negative image of ourselves. I guess we are afraid of not existing anymore, because we are afraid to see who we are without our patterns. Just the fear of Peace, the absense of all pain.
How do you cancel a negative belief? Do you just affirm the opposite? “Hey mind, that’s not true!
Someone cares. You do matter! . You are worth it!”


Courtney July 20, 2012 at 5:43 pm

It’s true that many of us are attached to our negative images of ourselves. There are many ways to dissolve beliefs. Byron Katie’s work is one of my favorite ways to do this.


Robin July 22, 2012 at 4:47 pm

I experienced a bit of an awakening when I read the book, The Power of Habit. The author reduces all behavior to a series of cues and rewards, an equation, basically. Sounds Pavlovian, but it helped me tremendously because it allowed me to remove the emotional factors and beliefs. It allowed me to begin to respond to different cues rather than the emotional ones. I was able to take all of the negativity out of the experience of meals and eating. My body is much happier since I no longer bombard it with negative thinking and emotions and surprisingly easily give it only pure nourishment.


Courtney July 24, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Thank you for sharing your experience, Robin! I say, whatever works… works! Everyone is different and that’s cool it resonated with you. Congratulations on such great healing and thanks for the inspiration!


Kirsten March 27, 2013 at 4:59 pm

I experienced disordered eating when I was younger, and for quite a while had a somewhat hostile relationship with my body. It was around control: if I controlled what I ate (or, well, what I retained…), I reasoned, then I controlled my life.

The core of that belief was experiencing “me” as one thing, and my body as another, what Sir Ken Robinson calls thinking of your body as “a life support system for your brain, designed to get you to meetings”.

Bodywork (martial arts, lots of dancing!), and meditation (mindfulness) re-established the connection, and I was able to deal with issues of food. I resolved that the best way to ‘control’ food was go for the highest quality calories I could at any time: so, not a big bar of bad chocolate but a small quantity of the absolute best.

To see it not just as fuel for the body but as a gift for the spirit, and as a vegan, a gift to the animals we share the world with.


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