How To Control Compulsive Eating

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end compulsive eating picture of cycle of restriction, rebellion, and temptation

I recently heard a woman after yoga say that she’s ‘not going to have one halloween candy because candy is dangerous’.  

Now this food belief might sound extreme, but are you aware of your own extreme food beliefs?

Because the first step in order to overcome compulsive eating is …

In order to Control Compulsive Eating you must first understand WHY you compulsively eat in the first place

And one of the most common, if not the most common reasons WHY you compulsively eat …

Is because you feel trapped by rigid food rules. 

If you don’t know your own food rules there is a high chance you are following these rules and not even knowing it, and then feeling trapped!

Now you might think, “Food rules? But food rules give me guidance on how to eat nutritionally?! I need to eat healthily. So how can I eat healthy if I disregard my food rules?” 

compulsive eating for moms
These rules sound good. And they are. But oftentimes we get feel trapped by rules and this trapped feeling then leads up to rebel by compulsively eating.

The key to control compulsive eating is first to understand our food rules.

The woman I mentioned earlier who said “candy is dangerous” one of her food rules is that Candy Is Bad.

Or, perhaps she has a slightly different phrasing on how she views candy. She might think that Candy is only allowed on birthdays. Or that candy is only acceptable after visiting the dentist.

I don’t know. She has her own rule around candy. But based on the rigid comment she made after yoga class in San Jose, that she wasn’t going to have one piece of candy, I am going to make an educated guess that this woman is unconsciously following a food rule.

What do you think?

So I want to get your opinion about how to control compulsive eating :

Do you agree – do you think candy is dangerous?

(if you don’t think candy is dangerous, substitute another food like white bread, white rice, cakes, donuts, etc)

I first want you to imagine a scenario:

Imagine you can never ever have candy (or your forbidden food) again in your entire life. Ever.

And then think about…

How do you think your inner child will feel hearing he or she can’t have any chocolate?

Like if you were four years old, how would your 4-year old self would feel about learning you could never ever have candy again?


Terrible. Heartbroken.

And rebellious.

That child who you forbid candy to … I betcha she’ll find another way to get her sweets … Maybe it’s at a party … or a restaurant … or alone when nobody else knows …

Here’s the point if we want to control compulsive eating : food rules can make our inner child (our subconscious selves) feel restricted. This feeling of restriction then leads us to rebel and eat food.

binge eating cycle

Reflect – Pause. Because there’s something incredibly important pattern to learn if you want to control compulsive eating :

Restriction – like not eating candy when you want to – leads to compulsion later on down the line.

So how do you beat your food rules?

The first step is to know your food rules.

I am not going to lie to you.

This requires one thing to begin: that you sit down for at least 15 minutes of uninterrupted thought, list out your food rules, and then examine why these are your food rules.

food rules to overcome compulsive eating
You create a simple list and analyze your list within 30 minutes using the graphic above.

Now I’m not going to lie to you either …

Ideally, this whole healthy eating weight loss journey you’re own …

You need to view this journey as soul-transformation.

This means you have to give up superficial transformation, or short-cuts.

You must be willing to do the work!!!

And part of doing the work means …

food rules

The second step to control compulsive eating – after you are aware of your food rules – is to reframe your thoughts around these food rules so that you develop something called ‘cognitive flexibility’

Have you ever heard of a phenomenon called tunnel vision?

I get this sometimes with marijuana. Yes, I still get addiction flashbacks for marijuana to this day.

(I’m open about my struggles with marijuana. I’m no longer dependent and have overcome this addiction, but doesn’t mean the cravings have gone away. They flare up every now and then)

And when a craving flares up … it’s like all I can think about is marijuana. How good it’ll feel.

But my viewpoint, my perception, is limited.

I can only see marijuana as a solution to feeling better. I am cognitively inflexible.

This is where understanding your food rules comes into play.

For me, I had an emotional rule: intense emotions are bad. Smoking marijuana to make those negative feelings go away is acceptable.

This was a rule of mine, similar to a food rule.

Once I knew I was being guided by this rule, I could then start to develop cognitive flexibility.

Cognitive flexibility is the key to control compulsive eating

You must be able to get out of tunnel vision to overcome compulsive cravings.

This means that you understand the triggers and rules which set you up to compulsively crave, and then …

You get out of tunnel vision by developing alternative ways of thinking or perceiving the stimulus, food in this case but marijuana for myself years ago.

Now try this alternative way of thinking about candy and let me know how this feels to you:

I can have some candy. I know a few pieces of candy won’t kill me. Because I am not restricting myself, I can trust that I will know when to stop eating candy. I can trust that I won’t eat too much candy because I am attuned to my hunger and fullness signals. So I’ll have a lil candy so I feel good about myself and to make sure my inner child feels heard, acknowledged and satisfied.

And that’s it.

It’s simple. No stress. No rules. No worrying if you’re bad or good.

Not having your self worth depend on whether or not you successfully avoided a certain type of food group.

Now pardon me …

I am going to go make myself a Nutella sandwich so I honor my personal desire for chocolate.

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.


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