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How to Avoid Self-Sabotage

Self-sabotage is a pattern that many people struggle with, particularly when it comes to food and body. However, when you can learn to overcome this destructive behavior, it will set you up for success, not only in your recovery, but in your life as a whole.

The Threat From Within

So what is self-sabotage? It’s any behavior that prevents us from achieving our goals. When it comes to food and body, examples of self-sabotage can include buying junk food when you’re trying to eat a cleaner diet, weighing yourself every day when you’re trying to focus less on weight loss and more on self-love, or spending time with loved ones who have no respect for your recovery and goals.

For me personally, I used to eat pretty clean and healthy all day long, and then at night, I would go nuts and sabotage a day’s worth of “success” in just a few minutes of binge eating. It was like a self-fulfilling prophecy, because although I would “eat healthy” all day long, there was part of me that was already looking ahead to my late night binge. My intention was never to eat healthy to feel good or because I loved myself, it was to eat healthy because I hated my body and needed to lose weight. As a result of that intention and mentality, the rules and restrictions I implemented in my life caused me to want to rebel on some level. Enter daily self-sabotage.

There’s no greater threat to recovery than self-sabotage. Our minds can have a difficult time letting go of ingrained behavioral patterns, like eating junk to numb out from negative emotions, and we can revert to old ways of thinking and acting at the drop of a dime. For many of us, we can also find our significance in our struggle. If we are known as the “one who struggles with food,” we may sabotage our recovery to hold on to that identity, because it’s all we have come to know.

Ways to Prevent Self-Sabotage

In order to prevent self-sabotage, you need to dig into the core beliefs that fuel your behaviors and patterns. Start by asking yourself this question, “How do I self-sabotage?” Bring awareness to your actions that sabotage your goals, and then reflect on the underlying beliefs that fuel those actions.

For example, maybe one way that you self-sabotage is by buying junk or processed food that you know is a trigger food for you. As you dig into the underlying belief that fuels this action, maybe you realize you do this because you “deserve a reward.” However, that’s a surface level belief, so you need to dig deeper. Why do you think you deserve a reward? Maybe it’s because, deep down, you are unhappy and have very little to look forward to. Maybe you’re lonely. After reflecting on all of this, you discover that the core belief that is triggering this self-sabotaging behavior is, “I’m not lovable, so what’s the point in trying?”

Once you hone in on that core belief, you can begin to shift it. Your behaviors, like binge eating or self-sabotage, are direct results of your beliefs, so you need to shift your beliefs first.

In the case of feeling unlovable, you can begin to work on self-compassion and self-love. What do you like about yourself? What are you proud of? What have you overcome? Where in your life have you triumphed? Why would anyone be lucky to know you and love you? When you shift your beliefs, your behaviors will follow, and you will be less likely to self-sabotage if you know why you’re prone to do it. 

Prioritizing Your Recovery

When you’ve worked so hard to get to a place of recovery from binge eating, it’s important to be aware of the potential struggles or issues that could derail your recovery, like self-sabotage. Fortunately, awareness alone can go a long way to help you overcome or even avoid something like self-sabotage. Instead of focusing all of your time and energy on recovery alone, be cognizant of your mindset and any lingering issues or patterns that are still giving you trouble. The more in tune you are with your experience and thoughts on the daily, including your struggles, the better equipped you will be to prevent things like self-sabotage from throwing a wrench in your recovery.


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