QnA: Help! How do I stop sabotaging my eating?
“I know what to eat. I can list all the diet friendly foods easily. I know how to cook. I always carry healthy snacks in my bag, but I always sabotage myself. I have all the best intentions, but if my husband wants a take-away, I’ll eat it instead of the food I thought of preparing for dinner. Or I’ll have my yogurt in work, and I’ll eat it, but then if there’s cake in the staff room, I’ll still have a slice of that too even though I know that I shouldn’t!”
Ah! Self-sabotage. We all do it. You’d think our brains would be on our side, but sometimes it seems they are intent on tripping us up. Telling us to stay up later than we should, or to press snooze one more time, or to treat ourselves!
I have named this behaviour as “The Poor You Guardian”. It’s this part of us that seems to really want to take care of us, but on closer inspection, the stuff it suggests could really end up hurting us in the long run.
“Did you have a bad day? Here, have a drink. Poor you. And another!”
“Are they all having cake? And you’re on a diet? Poor you! Go on, treat yourself. You deserve some cake too. Why should you miss out and eat plain yogurt, when they get to have all the delicious fun?”
“Poor you! You’ve been so good, and here’s your husband having a takeaway – why don’t you indulge, just this once?”
Yes – we all have this voice. But let’s be frank – we are throwing ourselves a pity party here. And this isn’t a very appealing thing to do. As Amy Morin writes in her bestselling; 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do – they don’t throw themselves a pity party!
The self-sabotage routine is also part of the Dieting Loopholes game that we also get caught up in. You’ll find more about this in The Mindset Reset eBook.
But it all boils down to the same thing:
We are not giving ourselves any choice. By doing this, we are not showing ourselves any self-trust.
We are being inflexible, rigid and harsh. But to be successful in most aspects of life, we need to learn to bend a little. To be a little less resistant, and when we do this, we soften up, and we’ll find it easier to listen to ourselves too. The more we are willing to listen, the more we send the message to ourselves that we are trustworthy – and we’ll gain more faith in ourselves this way too.
When we self-sabotage, it’s because we have put ourselves up to a very harsh and rigid framework. But if we want to step out of that rigidity, we have to come up with a reason. This is when the Poor You Guardian comes into play. It will give you plenty of reasons and justifications to bend the rules.
But what if there weren’t any rules?
What if you chose what to eat based on what you really wanted?
The Poor You Guardian wouldn’t have much to say.
You could have a take-away if you wanted, but you choose, on this occasion, to feel less greasy and opt for something else instead.
In the staff room, you could have all the cake you wanted – whether you were having a bad day or not. But on this occasion, you know you’ll do better in the afternoon without the cake. There’s no rule to break, you genuinely don’t want the cake.
But because you aren’t banning yourself from ever having cake again, you know it’s no big deal not to have it this once. You don’t feel like you will miss out.
So what’s the answer to stopping self-sabotage?
Stop any food rules.
Give yourself time to practice saying yes and no, based on your own feelings not on an external authority or a feeling of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ food. If you do end up eating something you didn’t really want, it’s okay. It’s time to practice kindness! Win win.
There is no right or wrong food. On Monday, you might tolerate white bread. But on another random day, you might not like it so much. This is what listening to yourself allows you to do: Be flexible.
Also – if you choose to eat something or not, then you are actively choosing it. So there’s no room for a pity party.
To be blunt, stop feeling sorry for yourself if you can’t have some cake. You can have it if you bloody want it. If you don’t want it, then don’t feel sorry for yourself. Enjoy the feeling of no cake. You’ll get used to it, I promise!
This isn’t like being in school, where you are ignored by teachers, so have to come up with some big lie to get what you want. You are allowed to listen to yourself.
I hope this has helped you! Thanks for writing in with your question.