How To Overcome Mental Restriction (Part 2)

Last week I posted a video about mental restriction – what it is and why it causes problems with your eating. And today’s video is all about how to overcome the mental restriction.

In my experience, one of the best ways to overcome the restrictive mindset with food is to challenge your limiting beliefs and thoughts – all the food rules, beliefs about “good and bad” foods, beliefs about health, and our bodies.

In this video, I will give you a step-by-step process to start changing your beliefs so you can overcome mental restriction.

We will cover:

✔️  How to identify your limiting beliefs

✔️  How to challenge your beliefs and thoughts

✔️  How to form new helpful beliefs

✔️  Why your self-talk matters and how to change it

✔️  How our thoughts affect the physical world


This post is the second part of the two-part series about mental restriction.

  1. In the last video we talked about what mental restriction is and I shared some scientific research on how it causes problems with eating. See HERE. 
  2. And in this post, we will talk about how to overcome mental restriction. 

What is mental restriction?

If you haven’t seen the first video where we talked more about what the mental restriction is then I suggest you watch that one first to fully understand what we are talking about here.

But very shortly mental restriction is the constant guilt, shame, and judgment about eating. You are maybe not physically dieting anymore, but you are still thinking like a dieter – you still judge your food as “good and bad”, “healthy/unhealthy”, you still worry about “eating too much”…you technically still eat BUT you don’t give yourself unconditional permission to do it without guilt and shame. Eating is still a very stressful experience for you because of the mental chatter you have in your head.

And as we talked about in the last video there is some scientific research that proves how mental restriction can lead to overeating, it still puts your mind in a deprivation mode, it affects your hunger hormones, and still signals stress to your body the same way restrictive dieting does.

How to overcome mental restriction?

In my experience, one of the best ways is to challenge your thoughts and beliefs. All the food rules, beliefs about “good and bad foods”, also beliefs about health and your body.

This is something I work on with my coaching clients so if you feel you need some extra help and support with this you can check out my recovery coaching. But here I want to give you a simple process you can use on your own.

1. Rewiring the restrictive thoughts

1) Become aware

Building awareness is the first step. Start to notice what food fears, worries, negative thoughts, and beliefs you are holding on to. Pay attention to your mental chatter. 

Or, if you find it hard to identify a clear thought then start to notice those moments of guilt, shame, and any kind of stress with eating and then ask yourself “What am I thinking, believing, or telling myself right now?” And write this thought down.


“I can’t keep eating this much, I have already gained weight!”

2) Challenge the thought with questions

Our thoughts hurt us the most when we believe they are true. Otherwise, they can be just thoughts. Many people suffer because they believe that “I’m thinking it therefore it must be true”. But we have to know that our thoughts are not facts. And it’s helpful to start challenging your thoughts with questions so they loosen their grip on you. Because there are so many other, much more helpful ways to think about the same situation. And while we can’t change the situation itself we can change how we view the situation, the meaning we attach to it, and by doing that our experience with the whole situation changes.

Example questions:

  • Can I really know how much food my body needs? (in reality, you don’t know, only your body knows that)
  • Maybe I need to gain weight? (if before you were suppressing your weight with restriction and you now finally let go of restriction, of course, your body wants and needs to gain weight)
  • Has restriction ever worked for me? (restriction has been the problem all along, so how can it be part of a solution?)
  • Is saying “I need to eat less” helpful? (no, because saying you need to eat less will only make you want to eat even more, right?)
  • Is it possible my body can control its own weight if given the chance? (yes, actually your body is meant to regulate its own weight but it can only do so if you don’t sabotage the process by putting your body through constant deprivation)

neural pathways

These are just some example questions and how you can challenge your initial thought and force yourself to start thinking differently. This process helps to rewire the brain and create new healthy neural connections while making the old unhealthy ones weaker as you stop wiring them so much with your focused attention and negative reaction.

You literally have to give your brain new ways to think about something, otherwise, it will only have this same old neural path to follow. You must create new neural pathways in your brain by challenging the old ones and replacing them with new ones. Your brain won’t change itself, YOU must direct your brain towards change by constantly and repeatedly choosing a new healthy focus, with your thoughts and actions.

3) Reframe

Next, find a more helpful, logical, and positive reframe to the initial negative thought. And you can use the challenging questions and what you discovered above to form this reframe.

New reframe:

If I gain weight by eating to my full hunger it’s because I need it. I am recovering from restriction and allowing myself unrestricted food will reverse that. My body knows how to find its own best weight and how much food it needs. I trust my body.

Or something like that. Come up with whatever resonates with you. Something that feels more helpful to you and what you can believe.

It will take some practice to really get good at finding those challenging questions and reframes. Sometimes people really struggle with this process and this is even more evidence of how much mental rewiring they need because currently in their brain there are none of those healthy thoughts and neural connections. So it just shows that more work is needed and with some dedication and practice you WILL start to create those new healthy neural pathways, new thoughts, and beliefs that align with full recovery and over time the restrictive diet mindset and the negative thoughts will lessen and lose its power.

4) Rewire by action and repetition

repetitionYou can’t just think about or talk about it but you must actually start acting according to your new healthy thoughts. You can’t say something and not do it. Your mindset and your actions have to align. Otherwise, it would be very confusing for your brain, if you say one thing, but then act in totally opposite ways.

Also, you must rewire by repetition. Our brain won’t change just by few times practicing this new reframe and taking a few action steps. You must be willing to take it as part of your daily practice from now on. Write it down, put the reframe somewhere you can see, and remind yourself. Say it to yourself over and over again, when you are eating, whenever the old thoughts sneak back in.

And continue to work on your other negative thoughts and limiting beliefs by following this process we just talked about. Because it’s very likely there are many old thoughts and beliefs to undo and reframe. So working on your thoughts will be an ongoing process.

2. Change your self-talk

The second way you can work on overcoming the mental restriction is by changing your self-talk. This is again related to your thoughts and what you are constantly saying to yourself and focusing on.

Many people may eat unrestrictedly but their self-talk is still the same way critical and negative as it was when they were still deep in their eating disorder. And your thoughts, your-self talk, is like an affirmation you are constantly putting out to the universe and this is exactly what you are manifesting more into your life. If the energetic vibration of your thoughts and self-talk is negative you will attract more negativity into your life. If you really want to change your life and fully recover you must start to pay close attention to your thoughts and your self-talk.

The Rice Experiment

In the last video, we already talked about how your thoughts affect your body physically, how they can affect your hunger hormones, your stress levels, and your behaviors.

Another good example of this is The Rice Experiment. Where people take boiled rice and put it into separate containers. 

To one portion of the rice, they say all the loving words like “I love you”, “You are good enough”, they talk to it very kindly, lovingly, and with compassion.

To the other portion of the rice they say very hateful and negative words, such as “I hate you”, “You are worthless”, “I’m gonna kill you” and all the other horrible stuff.

And they do this experiment for many days, weeks, or even months in a row.

And what happens is that the rice that was projected with all the kind and loving words doesn’t get moldy or at least not as quickly. But the rice that got all the negative and hateful words gets moldy rather quickly.

This experiment is based on Dr. Masaru Emoto’s Water Experiment where he did essentially the same process but with glasses of water and then observed the water crystals under a microscope.

The water crystals exposed to the positive words were perfectly symmetrical and beautifully formed while the water crystals exposed to negative words were uneven in structure and not fully formed.

water crystals

Our thoughts and words do affect the physical world. And if you think about a human body then the adult’s body is about 70% water. So this is why your thoughts are extremely powerful and why changing your self-talk is very important if you want to create health, wellbeing, and happiness for yourself.

Changing the negative self-talk

This is something I did in my recovery. I noticed my restrictive and negative thoughts – whether about food or the food rules I had and I simply changed my self-talk so it reflected unconditional permission.

For example, my thought’s used to be something like this when it came to eating:

“What’s wrong with me, I can’t believe I’m eating this much! I will just forever keep gaining weight! I’m such a failure that I can’t even eat normally. Who eats a whole pot of pasta?? I should be ashamed of myself. I hate myself.”

But with practice I changed my self-talk to something like this:

“I’m recovering and healing and I give myself unconditional permission to eat. All foods are available to me and I enjoy eating until I’m satisfied. I promise to always listen to my body and give it what it needs. I am so grateful that my body is strong and resilient and always has my best interest in mind. I promise to treat myself and my body with respect and kindness. I am grateful for my body and trust what it’s doing”

Can you feel how even the energy from those two types of self-talk is so different? One is very negative, stressful, makes you feel guilt and shame, it definitely has a low vibration. But the other is much more kind, loving, trusting. It has a much higher vibration and even my body feels physically different as I say it. There is less stress, more acceptance, and trust.

And you can be sure that your body and your brain also feel the difference between these two types of self-talk. In the first video of this series, we talked about how your body and brain releases stress hormones just by your restrictive thoughts. 

Can you guess which of those two types of self-talk are helping your body to recover and get out thinking it’s in danger and which of them still actively signal stress and deprivation, therefore still messing with your normal hunger cues and keeping you away from full recovery?

So pay attention to your self-talk and change it so it reflects unconditional permission and comes from kindness and compassion.

If you want to learn more about recovery and how to do it step by step then please read my book “BrainwashED”

And also please check out my recovery courses: Kickstart Your Eating Disorder Recovery and How To Get Back Your Period

If you wish to work with me one on one, then I offer 12-Week Recovery Coaching where I can help you go through your recovery step by step and offer support and accountability. Read more and apply HERE.

6 thoughts on “How To Overcome Mental Restriction (Part 2)”

  1. Dear Elisa!
    Your two last videos have been the best I have yet seen on Eating Disorder Recovery, and I have seen lots.
    Thank you

  2. Dear Elisa
    By chance I stumbelled over your blog posts and youtube videos and I am gratefull for it and thank you for putting it out there. I ordered your book and wait for its arrival. By readind your post on how to overcome mental restriction I find myself at a loss. I suffer from an eating disorder sice 20 years and it still influences me and controlls my life. I struggle from constant negative talk and i try to shift to a more positive self talk like you described in your post but none the less, even with this positive self talk, when i eat, I catch myself losing controll of food and bingeing and so my gastrointestinal system never gets a chance to heal. I suffer from severe gastrointestinal problems (flatulance, bloating, pain, pressure, reflux, constipation among others) as well as symptoms in other areas (stress,sleep,depression and other). What i wanted to say is, that despite positive selftalk I binge and that really pulls me down further. When I think I can be proid of me for making a new start, be kind to me, working hard, not give in and let myself be fooled by my body symptomes and coping woth the stress of time, when i then eat, drained by energy of even half a day or a day to be over, the eating disorder than strikes back and negates all the hard work. I loose hope even more and it gets harder and harder…

    1. the mental restriction and positive salf-talk is just one aspect of it. other important things are to make sure to eat enough, get rid of all restrictions first, so our body can get back to energy balance. without that, no amount of positive self-talk will get rid of the binges, if our body is still undernourished.

  3. This is EXACTLY the bump in the road I am facing as I am about halfway through my anorexia recovery. I am going to print these posts out and keep them within eyesight every day! Thank you so much; you have given me a lot of inspiration!

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