A good deal of emotional eating is due to irrational beliefs, especially about people, that do not serve us well. When we build our lives around these unhealthy beliefs that run contrary to how the world actually works, we’re bound to get upset easily and often. By reframing these beliefs, you’ll provide yourself with a healthier base for better living and better eating.
I’m nice, caring and loving, so other people must be that way too. Would that this were so. Many people have serious limitations in their ability to be intimate and forge positive, nurturing, mutually enhancing relationships. Most of their deficits are from growing up in dysfunctional families and from a culture that sends mixed messages about appropriate values to live by. It’s important to take these limited people as they are, not as you wish them to be. If they consistently treat you poorly and haven’t responded to your attempts to change them, stop trying and keep your distance.
Good things happen to “good” people. This is what we believe in childhood. People and aspects of our culture tell us that this is true and, it’s certainly a reassuring belief, so why not believe it? We shouldn’t because our experience tells us that, in fact, horrible things happen to everyone and it doesn’t matter what kind of exemplary life they’ve led. There are definitely rewards for being “good”—better relationships and pride, for example—but there is no cause and effect as in “I am good and life will reward me,” or “If I’m not good, life won’t reward me.”
Bad things happen to “bad” people. Another misguided belief learned in childhood is that bad things will happen to you or others for behaving poorly. A corollary is that you will be punished if you do wrong. Once again, there are people who go through life doing terrible things to others and still reap fantastic rewards and sleep peacefully at night. We’re the ones who are tossing and turning, longing for justice and revenge. If you’re disappointed or frustrated that some awful punishment hasn’t befallen someone who hurt you or others, it’s time to give up that pastime and move on.
The truth is that life is pretty random, much more so than you or I would like to think. Believing the three assumptions above makes us feel that we have more control over life than we realistically have, but it also sets us up for disappointment, heartache, abuse, and all sorts of mistreatment. Moreover, it primes us for distress and emotional eating as we bump up against the reality that others don’t necessarily do unto us as we do unto them, that doing good is its own reward, and that life is neither just nor fair.