What Role Do Beliefs Play In Emotional Eating?

by mortylefkoe on October 16, 2010

Originally I had thought, because getting rid of beliefs never stopped
emotional eating and because de-conditioning did with most clients, beliefs
had nothing to do with emotional eating. That was a logical fallacy on my
part. Just because beliefs are not the sole cause of emotional eating doesn’t
necessarily mean they can’t be a partial cause for some people.

I now think that conditioning is almost always involved in emotional eating, but beliefs also can be involved for some people.

Here’s the way it looks to me now. Most people with an emotional
eating problem have been conditioned to eat in response to various triggers
and rewards. This is true regardless of the client’s environment as a child.

However, if someone has grown up in an environment in which one’s
parents have an eating problem and they talk frequently about dieting, losing
weight, being too heavy, being “good” on days they stay on their diet and
“bad” on days when they do not, and “good” foods and “bad” foods, then
such people are likely to form a bunch of beliefs that result in food and
eating being a constant issue in their lives … in addition to the conditioning.

Here is a list of a few of the beliefs one of my clients identified and
eliminated: If I can’t eat “bad” foods, I’m missing out. “Bad” foods make
you fat. To lose weight you can’t eat anything “bad.” The way to keep food
from running my life (like it did my mom’s) is to eat whatever I want to eat.
Can you see how such beliefs probably would lead to emotional eating?

Beliefs like these would have to be eliminated before one’s emotional eating
would stop completely. I’ve been able to help clients with this type of belief
eliminate their relevant eating beliefs using the Lefkoe Belief Process.

I want to distinguish between beliefs that directly lead to emotional
eating (like those just discussed) and those that lead to triggers that lead
to emotional eating. The beliefs listed above would directly lead to
emotional eating. Beliefs also can lead to negative feelings (such as anxiety,
anger and upset), feeling sorry for oneself (a sense of victimization), feeling
unlovable, etc. These conditions then can become triggers for emotional
eating. But these beliefs do not have to be eliminated before emotional
eating can be totally stopped.

Why Are These Beliefs So Different?

Because if the Lefkoe De-conditioning Process unhooks these triggers
from emotional eating, it becomes possible to deal with the triggers with
behaviors other than emotional eating—such as talking to friends, listening to
music, exercising, reading a book, or any activity one truly enjoys.

Although these activities have always existed as possible ways to deal
with the triggers that emotional eaters have, they are rarely chosen as
alternatives because eating already has been conditioned to occur
immediately (unless stopped by will power) following the presence of the
trigger. Once eating has become de-conditioned and is no longer a
compulsive behavior, you then have the time to calmly find another activity
that will provide a “pleasurable distraction.”

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