Breaking Free From Compulsive Eating


We are not born to make ourselves miserable. When it feels that that’s what we are doing when we eat, or don’t eat or diet, it’s time to look deeper.

Compulsive eating is ALWAYS an attempt to care for yourself. I know it’s hard to believe when we want to lose weight so badly, but we should never judge ourselves for overeating.

Our binge-eating serves a purpose in our life. To stop eating compulsively we must find out what that purpose is and find a new healthier way to serve that purpose. You cannot take away an addiction unless you replace it with something else, an interest, a hobby, an action.

We cannot stop eating compulsively unless we acknowledge the needs it is serving and find new and more satisfying ways of filling those needs.


The foundation of compulsive eating is almost always emotional.

The first thing to do is to listen to your hunger. It is important to be aware when we are really hungry and when we are not and only eat when we ARE hungry, stop when we have eaten enough, and deal with all the emotional conflicts we experience when we are not hungry, and we want to eat.

The most important elements of change are self-awareness, mindfulness, and self-trust.

As by being completely present in the moment and aware of our physical needs we can also learn to listen to the voice that wants to care for us, not destroy us or punish us.

Eating Guidelines

To break free from compulsive eating, the author of “Why Weight?”, Geneen Roth, suggests some basic, yet effective eating guidelines:

1) Eat when you are hungry
2) Eat sitting down in a calm environment
3) Eat without distractions (including TV, radio, reading, loud music, intense conversations)
4) Eat only what you want
5) Eat until you are satisfied
6) Eat in full view of others wherever possible
7) Eat with enjoyment

The Four Stages

Every person will also have to go through for stages before they can finally break free from compulsive eating. There are no rigid timelines to go through these stages. Everyone must go at their own pace. The stages can be summarised as follows:

STAGE IAcknowledge that there is a problem – that the problem is much more complex than simply being overweight and that dieting alone will not solve the problem.

STAGE IIRebelling against the years of dieting and deprivation – eating what you feel like, including what you might have considered before “forbidden food” but learning to eat only when you are hungry and to stop when you feel satisfied. This is the “hard work” stage as all the emotions that led you to compulsive eat will surface. You will have to work with yourself for example through

• Hypnotherapy
• Journalling
• Counselling
• Expressing your feelings as they arise through music and art
• Talking about your feelings with family and friends

You learn to find other way of nourishing yourself such as walking, talking a nap or a bath, meeting with friends, going to movies, dancing, getting massages, reading, or doing something you always wanted to do…

STAGE IIILearning to trust yourself – learning to eat without guilt, to stop bingeing, to distinguish the food your body really wants from that which was “forbidden”, ability to eat only a small piece of chocolate and stop, you begin to have faith in your body-wisdom, food other than sweets starts to taste good, you learn what nourishes you and keeps you healthy.

STAGE IVExperiencing the joy of breaking free – you start losing weight slowly and healthy, still eating what you want and stopping when you are satisfied. What you want now are usually nourishing foods, with very small amounts of sweets. You accept and enjoy your body even if not perfect. Food becomes delightful rather than a source of pain. When you are not hungry you don’t think about eating. You can go anywhere or be anywhere and have any type of food in front of you without going on a binge. You feel confident and trust yourself and this confidence extends to many other aspects of your life as your work and your relationships. Since your life doesn’t not revolve around food anymore you have more energy to enjoy life and cope better with problems. Sometimes – like everyone else – you will overeat but you won’t take this as the sign that you are a failure, that is ok! Sometimes your body needs more food, for example with seasonal changes.

Enjoy the journey not just the destination.