Step of the Month: 12 Big Fat Lies Compulsive Eaters Tell Themselves

We compulsive overeaters are dishonest by nature. Really! For decades, our brains have been telling us lies about our eating to keep us eating. The truth about compulsive eating is that it is an illness. We are not like other people. We have a physical allergy to food that creates systematic cravings, a mental obsession with food, and a downward spiral of our spiritual well-being. But some of us are so wedded to our lies that we either don’t realize they are lies or are too afraid of failure to address them.

Here are 12 of the lies shared retrospectively by people who have experienced recovery. Lies that keep us stuck in our disease when we accept them as truths.

  1. I’m a bad person because I can’t stop eating compulsively.
    We’re sorry to burst this bubble, but we aren’t bad people. What we are is people with a chronic, progressive illness that we cannot control.
  2. I don’t care anymore. I might as well keep eating.
    If we truly didn’t care, we wouldn’t be preoccupied with our bodies and the pain the disease causes us. Experience shows that we eat precisely because we care desperately.
  3. If I could eat like a normal person, everything would be better.
    An insidious lie if there ever was one. What we’re really saying to ourselves is that we wish we could eat as much as we wanted and not gain weight so that we could keep eating compulsively and not face any consequences.
  4. I’m only hurting myself.
    We bury feelings with food, and in our more lucid moments, we recognize that the people who love us are deeply concerned by the slow suicide our food behaviors appear to be.
  5. All I have to do is eat in moderation.
    Sure, and while were at it, we can build a time machine, be in two places and once, and bring peace and harmony to the world with one magic word. Controlling our food is no longer possible for us. By the time we learned about OA, that ship had sailed a long time ago.
  6. Life wouldn’t be worth it if I couldn’t have my favorite foods.
    Really? And how’s life going with those favorite foods?
  7. Depriving myself of my favorite foods is just a way to punish myself.
    Perhaps abstaining from those foods is a way to give ourselves the gifts of freedom, joy, and happiness?
  8. I’m just an emotional eater.
    Maybe true. If so, try this experiment just to make sure: Put a serving of your favorite food in front of yourself, but keep the rest of the contents of its original container within arm’s reach. Now sit in front of that one serving and see if you can not eat it. Try it for 5 minutes. 10 minutes. An hour. Try it a couple days in a row. In our experience, few if any compulsive overeaters can keep themselves from not only eating that serving but from getting into the rest of the container as well. It’s because our emotions are only a trigger for our eating, not the root cause.
  9. I eat because of what someone else did to me or how they treated me. You’d eat too!
    In other words, we take the poison we intend for the other person.
  10. I know myself, and I can’t change.
    Do you really know yourself? What we find out in OA is that underneath the highly-defended face we present to the world is a person we don’t know very well. We haven’t let anyone, including ourselves, get close to that person for years, perhaps decades, because of pain and fear. We’ve discovered that our outward behaviors can indeed be changed if we let go of what we think we know about ourselves and adopt an attitude of rigorous honesty, openness, and willingness to try what millions of others have used successfully to arrest this killing disease one day at a time.
  11. I just need to get through ____, and I’ll OK.
    In our experience, addiction doesn’t care what’s going on in our lives. We can eat over a broken shoelace, a broken heart, a broken arm, or a broken home. There’s always some reason to eat.
  12. I’ve tried everything else, and OA won’t be any different.
    OA isn’t like anything else. Come in, stick around, you’ll see.