Most of the behavioral or emotional problems we want to get rid of are relatively simple to deal with.  We procrastinate.  We worry all the time about what people think of us.  We lack confidence. Using The Lefkoe Method you can find and eliminate the beliefs and conditionings that cause these problems.  As a result, the problems will disappear.

Unfortunately overeating and weighing too much are not as simple.  This problem is much more difficult to get rid of than most because it consists of from six to eight (or even more) sub-problems, each of which has to be handled before the real problem is solved.

Let me explain.

Some people gain weight because they eat a lot of unhealthy fattening foods and do very little exercise.  That’s relatively simple to handle.  Eat more healthily and get more exercise.  If there are beliefs and conditionings that inhibit those two activities, get rid of them and you’ll start eating more healthy foods and exercising.

But for many people, the real problem is eating when they aren’t really hungry. If they would stop eating when they feel full and only eat when they are really hungry, the eating/weight problem would disappear.  This is my ultimate goal for my clients, not losing weight. Because if most people with a normal metabolism and with a healthy diet eat only when hungry, they will not gain weight.

So the question then becomes, why do people eat when they aren’t hungry?

There can be many reasons, including:

  • It is a way to take a break from work; it’s a diversion.
  • It is a way to reward yourself when you feel no one else or nothing else will.
  • It is a way to experience love and acceptance.
  • It is a way to keep unpleasant feelings down—such as anxiety, anger, upset, and sadness.
  • It is a way to feel good, comforted, happy, secure, centered, at home.
  • It is a way to feel comfortable in social situations where everyone else is eating.
  • It is a way to remove yourself from the dating game and from sex.  In other words, if you feel uncomfortable in romantic relationships and/or in sexual relationships, one way to avoid them is to get very heavy to discourage the opposite sex. In fact, although being significantly overweight might discourage some people from a romantic or sexual relationship, it obviously does not discourage a great many.
  • It is a response to childhood deprivation. If there wasn’t enough food to eat—if you didn’t eat the food right away it would be gone and you wouldn’t be able to eat at all—you can get conditioned to eat whenever you see food whether you are hungry or not.
  • If I work hard and accomplish a lot I’m entitled to whatever I want, including anything I want to eat.
  • You’re going to go on a diet and will be depriving yourself of food for a while.
  • The food tastes really good, which makes you feel good.

If your eating/weight problem is the result of eating when you aren’t hungry, then you need to determine which “needs” your eating is fulfilling.  Then you can treat each of these needs as a separate undesirable behavior pattern. From there you can find and eliminate the beliefs that cause it.

In addition to having to get rid of a lot of beliefs, self-esteem and otherwise, eating/weight problems also involve a lot of conditioning.

Classical Conditioning

I discussed one type of conditioning and a process we have for de-conditioning in my blog post on May 5, 2009.  In this type of conditioning, which psychologists call “classical conditioning,” something that normally doesn’t cause an emotional response gets conditioned to do so.

Here’s an example I use with my clients that will make this type of conditioning very clear.  Imagine that I handed you an ice cream cone with one hand and made a fist with my other hand and drew it back as if to hit you.  What would you probably feel? … Some level of anxiety if you thought you might get hit.  Now imagine that the next few times someone handed you an ice cream cone, the same thing happened and you felt anxious each time.

What do you think you would feel the next time you were handed an ice cream cone, even if there was no menacing fist? … Probably anxious.  And yet it’s clear that ice cream cones are not inherently scary.  Why would you feel anxious?  Because the ice cream cone got conditioned to produce fear when it became associated with the fist. Something was scaring you (the fist) and ice cream just happened to be there every time the fist scared you.

The principle is that anything that occurs repeatedly (or even once if the incident is traumatic enough) at the same time that something else is causing an emotion will itself get conditioned to produce the same emotion.

That’s how making mistakes, being criticized, not meeting expectations, being rejected, and a host of other situations that are not inherently scary get conditioned to produce anxiety (or some other emotion, such as anger).  The Lefkoe Stimulus Process is a very effective method to use with classical conditioning.

Operant Conditioning

There is another type of conditioning that is especially relevant in eating/weight issues.  It results from continually rewarding or punishing specific behavior, thereby conditioning that behavior.  Psychologists call this “operant conditioning.”

For example, if every time you got upset as a child your mom gave you food to make you feel better, you could get conditioned to eat whenever you got upset.

Or, if your parents continually rewarded you for special things you did as a child by giving you a special meal with the food you really liked, you could get conditioned to eat whenever you wanted to feel acknowledged for something you did.

The Lefkoe De-conditioning Process is very effective with operant conditioning.

The Source Of One of the Sub-problems

Let’s examine one of the eating/weight sub-problems in a little more detail to see how it is the result of beliefs and operant conditioning.

Assume that whenever you feel alone, rejected, unloved, etc. you eat, whether you are hungry or not.  You might believe I’m unlovable, I don’t fit in, Food is love, I’m alone in the world, Eating is the way to be loved, and If someone gives you food it means he loves you.  There can be many others, but this gives you an idea of the type of beliefs that could cause a behavior pattern like this.

The operant conditioning involved here is eating in order to feel loved.  This could have occurred early in life if your parents fed you as an expression of their love.  This conditioning is more likely to be found in Jewish and Italian families.

Resolving eating/weight issues is especially tricky because you need to continue eating after the problem is gone.  You can’t stop it completely like you can stop alcohol and drugs.  Nevertheless, if you eliminate all the relevant beliefs and conditionings for all the sub-problems, an eating/weight problem can become nothing more than an unpleasant memory in your past.

To see a short video from someone who totally handled his emotional eating problems, click here:

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Copyright © 2009 Morty Lefkoe