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Rational Eating Beliefs

I’ve noticed over and over that disordered eaters frequently go right to trying to change their behavior before doing the requisite work of transforming their beliefs about food, eating, weight, and body. Although you might be able to alter a few, minor behaviors, without working on beliefs, on the whole, you will need to examine—and perhaps revamp—your entire belief system regarding food if you wish to eat “normally.”

For example, if you believe that you shouldn’t eat when you’re hungry because food is the enemy and will make you fat, you’re going to struggle over the issue. It won’t get easier to respond to your body’s hunger until you’ve developed beliefs such as, “I can eat whenever I’m hungry,” or “Eating when I’m hungry won’t make me fat.” Another instance of forcing behavioral change when you don’t have a belief underpinning it is trying to stop eating when you’re full and/or satisfied. If you irrationally believe that you shouldn’t waste food, you must finish everything on your plate, and more is better, you’ll need to reframe these beliefs to make them rational. By believing that it’s okay to waste food, that you don’t need to finish the food on your plate, and that exactly right is better than more, you are laying the foundation for acting in your best interest around food.

What is it that makes you want to rush to change behavior without first making sure that all your beliefs about food are healthy and rational? Is it that you’re impatient for change and don’t want to put in the time and energy to comb through your belief system and reframe irrational cognitions? Do you fear facing the truth about what you believe? Or do you not truly understand how to make irrational beliefs rational? If you have questions about changing beliefs, please refer to my book, The Rules of “Normal” Eating which is all about transforming beliefs and behavior.

It takes focused, ongoing work to restructure a belief system, and you will eventually get the hang of it. Don’t be daunted because you’re not sure exactly how to do it. First, read the chapters in The Rules about beliefs, noting how examples are structured and phrased. Second, either make your own list of irrational beliefs or use the ones from the book. Third, do the reframing, either on your own or, again, using the book’s examples. It’s a good idea to think “beliefs” whenever you’re stuck in changing a behavior. My guess is that at least half the time you’re repeating an healthy behavior, it’s because there’s an irrational belief lurking behind it. Keep a running two-column beliefs log, one side listing irrational beliefs and the other, reframed, rational ones. Before long, you’ll see a big difference in your eating behavior.