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Core Beliefs to Change to Help Resolving Your Eating Problems

At a workshop I attended sponsored by the Institute for Brain Potential, psychologist Joseph W. Shannon talked about core beliefs or schema—“an extremely stable and enduring pattern of thinking that is learned in childhood or adolescence.” If these beliefs, the basis of how we view ourselves and our world, are irrational and unhealthy, they’ll make it impossible to have a happy, healthy life. Below are some irrational beliefs I’ve heard from clients, hoping you’ll recognize which of these unhealthy schema you hold and understand that you won’t resolve your eating disorder until you change them.

1. Dependence/Incompetence: I must rely on others because I can’t take care of myself adequately or appropriately.
2. Counter-dependence: I don’t trust others and can fix my problems myself.
3. Subjugation: I must ignore my wants and needs and, instead, focus on the wants and needs of others.
4. Self-sacrifice: If I focus on my own needs rather than those of others, I am selfish.
5. Vulnerability to Harm or Illness: I must always take precautions to protect myself.
6. Fear of Losing Control: I must keep strong feelings in check or I’ll lose control.
7. Emotional Deprivation: I won’t ever meet someone who cares about me and wants to meet my needs.
8. Abandonment/Loss: I will always be abandoned and left alone.
9. Defectiveness/Lovability: I’m damaged and flawed and can’t let others see this truth or they’ll reject me.
10. Mistrust/Abuse: I don’t trust others to get close to me because they’ll hurt me.
11. Social Isolation/Alienation: I’m so superior to others that they can’t ever meet my expectations; I’m so different from others that they’ll never accept me.
12. Social Undesirability: I’m unattractive in many ways, so no one will ever want to be with me, especially when they get to know me well.
13. Shame/Embarrassment: There’s something so unacceptable about and wrong with me that I must never let others see the real me.
14. Perfectionism: I’m never good enough and when I don’t succeed, I’m a failure.
15. Failure to Achieve: I’m not as good as I should be or as good as others wish me to be so I don’t bother trying because I will always fail.
16. Self-punishment: As a disappointment to myself and others, I deserve mistreatment.

Can you see how these unhealthy beliefs make it difficult for you to become a
“normal” eater? If you hold any of the above beliefs, first recognize that though they may feel like truth, they are nothing but a learned perspective and, if you can learn them, you can unlearn them. Understand that although you didn’t choose to feel as you do about yourself or the world and were socialized to (mistakenly) believe certain ways, that you can choose to believe differently now. Spend time reframing your beliefs (my book, The Rules of “Normal” Eating, will help you, as will Feeling Good by David Burns) and acting as if you believed in a rational manner. Keep exploring and reframing your irrational beliefs until all of them are rational and you will be on your way to a happier, healthier life and a saner relationship with food.