Limiting beliefs are internalized ideas developed over time that may unconsciously be holding us back from growth — whether that’s overcoming issues with body image, advancing in your career or simply feeling more at home in your own head.

Nutrition writer and self-proclaimed ‘ex-diet junkie’, Caroline Dooner’s new book, The F*ck It Diet, identifies limiting beliefs as a major reason that so many people struggle to overcome emotional blocks. The excerpt below is about uncovering and addressing limiting beliefs — whether they’re inherited or self-imposed — related to food anxiety and weight management, but the lesson can be applied across the board. Use this reflective exercise to unpack the emotional baggage that might be keeping you from your best self…

Unprocessed emotions and energy will get stuck in the body. When you use the breathe-and-feel tool to get into your body and feel sensations and emotions, you may notice that images, memories and realizations come to mind. That’s because certain beliefs are tied to different emotions and stuck energy. Which means you can also access this emotion by starting with the limiting belief and using it as a way to access and process the emotion and energy tied up in that stressful belief.

For instance, a very common belief is I should be ashamed when I gain weight. That belief will be attached to a well of energy, emotions, pain, memory and shame that we do not want to have to feel. That energy and emotion has been walled off, so to speak, and not dealt with. We’ve created energy walls within our body so we don’t have to feel or deal with the feelings the belief brings up. Anything can trigger and bump up against those walls, but our habit is to feel that initial discomfort and then try and wall it off even more, which causes more stagnation.

What Are Limiting Beliefs?

These are some big limiting beliefs that often accompany a disordered relationship to food and are worth addressing as you take yourself through The F*ck It Diet:

I am a food addict.
Being full is unhealthy.
I just need more willpower.
It’s all my fault.
I don’t deserve to relax.
I need to be responsible.
It is not safe to feel.
If I start to feel, the pain will never end.
If I am not thin, I am failing.
If I am not thin/beautiful, I will .
I don’t deserve to take care of myself if I’m fat. I cannot accept my current weight.
Being fat is ugly.
Only thin people can.
I need people to approve of me.
Gaining weight is unhealthy.
Gaining weight is ugly.
Losing weight could be easy if I had willpower.
Losing weight is responsible.
Nobody will take me seriously if I gain weight.
Most food is bad for me.
Gaining weight is a sign of failure.
My weight is my fault.
I can’t trust my body.
I should limit carbs.
I can’t eat a lot.
Being skinny will make me happy.How Do I Release Limiting Beliefs?

This tool is kind of like a brain dump to breathe and feel. You will be using a stressful belief as a prompt to help you activate and access the energy associated with it in your body. You’re going to lean into the energy by writing about it, and while you do that, you’re going to feel what is coming up by breathing into it. The goal, as always now, is to feel what you usually run away from feeling, using the breath to activate it more.

Choose a limiting belief to work with. It can be one you found from your writing, or one that is listed anywhere in this book. Find a quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted and get a notebook (or pages you plan on burning or shredding or recycling) or whatever your little dramatic heart desires.

Start Writing. Write at the top of the page: I am releasing the belief. Start writing anything that comes to mind about this belief. Memories. Emotions. Side thoughts. Where the belief came from. Why it feels hard or scary or impossible to let this belief go.

Breathe Through The Feels. As you write, notice where you feel stress or discomfort rising up in your body: legs, low abdomen, mid-abdomen, heart, throat, anywhere you feel stress or sensation. Breathe and feel into it. That’s really all we are going to do: Continue to activate stuck stress, and breathe and feel to process it. You may feel a lot, or you may feel just a little. It may be clear emotions, or it may be more like tension and sensation. It doesn’t matter what it is — give yourself permission to sit with that feeling. Feel what you usually run away from.

Reflect On The Roots. If you run out of things to write about, but still feel like there is more to feel, focus on writing about where the belief came from, and why it’s hard to let go of, and keep breathing into what it brings up in the body.

Be Gentle With Yourself. You get to decide when you’ve had enough. Even a minute or two is time well spent. You could also wait until you feel any sort of shift, and the stress doesn’t feel as easy to access anymore, because that means you probably did a lot of good work. But small, bite-sized chunks work very well and are a good way to start. This isn’t about what you write. This is about what the writing allows you to feel. Sure, you may come up with major breakthroughs and memories you had previously forgotten about, but the way to release them is the feeling part. Your only task is to breathe and feel what is there. (Have I said that enough yet?)

Review + Process. What you write or remember does not have to feel epic in order to be profound. You can write mundane things the whole time, breathe and feel, and still release lots of stuff that’s been getting in your way. And remember: Be kind to yourself. Processing energy can be taxing. Rest, eat, try an Epsom salts foot soak or do anything else that feels grounding or replenishing as you work through these feelings and beliefs.

From the book THE F*CK IT DIET. Copyright © 2019 by Caroline Dooner. Published on March 26, 2019 by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.

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