How to Use Self-sabotage to Stop Emotional Eating and Overeating | TMOHP Episode 088

Self-sabotage shows up in some sneaky (and some predictable) ways when you decide to stop overeating or emotional eating. Traditional approaches to changing your eating habits aren’t very helpful, and over time, it’s easy to lose confidence in your ability to be successful. White-knuckling it or barreling ahead in the hopes that being “strong enough” will banish the ways you’ve gotten off track in the past isn’t the answer. In today’s episode I have a very different perspective on self-sabotage and how you can actually leverage your self-saboteur to create better, more lasting changes in overeating and emotional eating habits.

In this episode:

  • Deprivation approaches to self-sabotage and why they don’t work
  • The power tool question that you can use to get unstuck and to create better results in just about any situation involving overeating, emotional eating, or anything else
  • Examples of how smart women use self-sabotage to create better results

[If you love this podcast, will you take 30 seconds to leave a review? It makes all the difference in my ability to share this information!]

Resources mentioned in this episode:

  • Get on the waitlist or get registered for the next free Freedom from Overeating Workshop Series for Smart, Busy Women.  
  • Emotional Eating Quiz: Not sure why you’re overeating, or what your Hidden Hungers are? Take the free Hidden Hungers Quiz and get a free set of resources matched to your results.
  • Your Missing Peace  is the program for women ready to stop overeating and emotional eating for good. Enrollment is open and NOW is the perfect time to join us! Go here to learn more
  • Private Coaching. One-on-one coaching is for you if you’re looking for something completely individualized and specific to your situation. Openings are limited. Learn more here.

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Full episode transcript:

Hey everybody, welcome back to the Too Much On Her Plate podcast. If this is your first time here, I am so glad that you have found the podcast and I hope it's helpful to you. I just wrapped up a five part series of free workshops. Online workshops that were called The Freedom from Overeating Workshop series for Smart Busy Women, and I have to say it was, they were amazing.

There were attendees from at least five continents and a few dozen countries. It, as I shared in the workshop, it was so cool to be able to work with all these women from all over the world or many parts of the world. And a piece of what makes that so important to me, and I want to mention it here because it may be important to you. Is that it just invalidates the myth that so many of my clients, so many smart, incredibly capable women carry inside of themselves- that they're alone in this, you know, struggle to solve the overeating puzzle. Or that thought that so many people have that I'm the only one who feels this way. I'm the only one who hasn't figured this out by now.

No, it's so not true. And if you think about what it does for you, if you have a thought similar to that. Right? It, it slows us down. It causes us to feel embarrassed or guilty or even ashamed. So many women are hiding because they feel like this is a struggle nobody else can understand. So I am here to tell you just finish this five day event, attendees from at least five continents. I lost count of how many countries. It was a few dozen countries. Most of the states in the United States had people who came forward and said, hey, this is where I'm from.

It was amazing. And you are not alone, and you are not the only one who struggles with this by far. In the workshop series, I tackled a new piece about what it takes to change your eating, what it really takes to change your eating for good- each day. So there was a different piece of training each day and it was so much fun. I'm still kind of buzzing about it. So as a side note, since I mentioned this, I'm pretty sure that I will be offering some version of this event again. And it's absolutely free. It's online, so if you think you might want to attend it be sure to get yourself on the wait list. We have a wait list, you just need to go to TooMuchOnHerPlate.com/waitlist, all one word and sign up there. Then when we decide for sure that we're going to do this again, and we have the dates, you'll be notified about the next time that I offer it. I'll put the link to that in the show notes too, actually, so that, you have that information. Anyway, get yourself on the wait list. I highly recommend it.

But I digress. The workshop series, and the reason I'm talking about this is all about the steps that you need to put in place to create freedom from overeating. And I think another key takeaway from the workshop series, and probably from this podcast too, or I hope from this podcast too, is demonstrating how different the process that I use is the process that I teach. How different this process is from deprivation thinking and diet mentality. This way of approaching our relationship with food and our eating and ourselves that most people marinate in for at least their entire adult life.

So in the workshop series, we definitely tackle the topic of self sabotage. Or at least part of that topic because it is so big and so broad, but so important to address. And the piece that I think is always important to talk about at the very beginning is the sneaky way or the ways that self sabotage can show up when you want to stop overeating or emotional eating.

And not only the sneaky ways that it shows up, but the ways that sabotage can lead to vicious cycles. Ongoing patterns. Right? That hamster wheel was overeating and weight gain. And then dieting, and then yo-yo weight loss or weight gain. And also how those patterns with self sabotage also do such a number on your confidence, your belief in yourself, your hope. The idea that you can ever really create the kind of change that you want.

And so during the workshop series, there was a lot of sharing about self sabotaging patterns and also the worry and the thinking that goes with them. Or that follows behind them. I'm talking about the thoughts and the comments that people would share even after a training that they were feeling enthused about, that felt really positive.

These thoughts that come up like, can I really do this? Can I count on myself? Will I show up? Will I do this? How is this time going to be any different? How am I really going to be different this time? And I think the bottom line question is, can I trust myself? Can I trust myself to keep the promises that I make to myself? Can I trust myself to make promises that I can actually keep?

So with all of that in mind today, I want to share with you a question. It's a question that I use in my own life when I really, really want to succeed with something, but I don't know where to start. Or I'm feeling less than perfectly confident, which is always. Or when I don't feel confident at all about my ability to succeed.

This question has been very helpful to me. And it has also created some amazing I, I'll call them aha moments and also real results inside the Your Missing Peace program. Your Missing Peace is my signature six month program for ending overeating. And we do a lot of coaching in there and we use this question.

What is that tool? I don't know if it exists anymore. It's like this, this thing, it's not a pocket knife that you can keep in your pocket that does everything. It's a corkscrew. It's a screwdriver, it's a, it's a knife, it's a, the Leatherman I think it was called. I don't know.

Anyway, this is a tool like that. This is a power tool kind of question. So when we have used this question in. In the program, in, in Your Missing Peace. Just off the top of my head, I'm thinking of someone who used this question and ended up losing weight on vacation without dieting. I have had somebody use this question number of people to recharge or get restarted or started with an exercise habit. To get on track, eating healthy lunches. The kind of lunch that would keep their energy even throughout the day. So they didn't have that slump and that binge at the end of the day.

I have had participants use this question to catch themselves and steer themselves away from those unrealistic plans. You know, those plans that sound so good in our head, but they're going to lead to failure. And you actually know it before you even get started.

These are just a few of the places that I have seen this question do amazing things and really get people unstuck. Right? And now that I'm thinking about it, I'm also thinking about clients who have used this question to take time for themselves for the first time ever on a stressful holiday. Right? Like with lots of family members where they get overwhelmed and then they go kind of numb. And then they overeat. And figuring out how to break away from that and break away from that pattern and take time for themselves in a way they never had before.

And even I'm thinking of somebody who used this question to start improving communication with her partner. Right? So it is a power tool of a question. And I know right now you're really curious. I've, I've got the, the energy going around this question. What is this magical question? Give me a moment and we will get there.

But before we do, let’s talk about why you probably aren't already asking yourself this question in so many important areas in your life. What I'm going to say. Right? Deprivation thinking. Deprivation thinking is something we are all way too familiar with.

Deprivation thinking is a very narrow road. It leads you down this very narrow road with blinders on, and there are only a few answers. Inside deprivation mentality, hard work, or working even harder if you didn't succeed is one of those answers. Right? You need to work hard. That's how you get results, and if you aren't getting results, you need to work harder.

Being perfect is another answer in deprivation thinking. So, think about it. If you decide, let's say you decide that today is the day you're going to give up emotional eating. Or you're going to stop binging at night. Or today is the day when you are done with stress eating at the office. Okay? Imagine that is happening for you today. You have decided.

The usual way our brain works out the strategy to do this thing you've just decided you're going to do. Is to walk yourself through a little conversation like this. Okay? Today's the day. Today's the day. I will work harder. I'm going to work harder today. Today I'm going to be vigilant. I am going to be on point. Today's the day I'm going to pay attention. Today's the day I'm going to stay in control. Today is the day I'm going to do X and Y and Z, and I will not do A and B and C. And I'm not going to do anything wrong because I will be strong. Today is the day. Right? That is the usual path our brain tends to go down.

And if you didn't hear it when I said those things the first time, I want you to listen again for the feeling that is behind them. I, I mean, I hear a lot of pressure. The emphasis on self-control in those statements. The emphasis on perfection and rigid follow through. For those things. So today's the day you have decided you are giving up that thing or changing that thing. Or you are done with the overeating. Right?

So today's the day you're going to work harder. You're going to be vigilant. You're going to stay in control. You're going to pay attention. And you've decided you're going to do X, Y, and Z. You're not going to do A, B, and C. whatever those things are. Right? Going to go wrong because you have your determination. Right? You are going to be strong.

When you really think about it, you get behind the bombastic energy and all that. It sounds hard or draining. Or probably even exhausting, doesn't it? Pouring through something to get to that one time result to the, to get to that one goal doesn't change your ongoing relationship with food. Powering through I'm going to be tough. I'm going to be strong this time it will work. It comes from deprivation thinking. It is also based on the illusion that you have more control than you probably do.

Because I bet your energy is variable and sometimes your energy is not completely within your control. I bet your schedule varies. I bet there are circumstances when even though your plan is that you're going to do X, Y, and Z and you're not going to do A, B, or C, sometimes that won't work out. Or you'll forget to buy the salad greens. Or you won't have time to go to the store. Or you'll leave your lunch on the counter. Or you'll have a headache or your boss will blindside you. Or that great strategy you had to distract yourself from overeating at night it doesn't work out. Or your child will get sick. Or you will sleep poorly. Or your friend will want you to go out for drinks and you still want to let loose and you want to have a fun time. Or something else will happen.

Because you're a human being living a human life in a human world. Deprivation thinking sets us up. It is a setup because a part of the formula behind it is telling ourselves that suddenly we've turned a corner and we've made a decision and the events in life that trip us up and our own self sabotaging aspects are somehow no longer going to exist. If we are just strong enough. If we are just strong enough, none of these things will trip us up anymore. It's a trap.

So here's what I want to tell you that works much better. We are getting to that amazing question. You can use your own history of self sabotage to stop emotional eating. You can use it to eat more nutritiously. You can use it to stop binging or overeating at night, or whatever it is that you're wanting to do with your eating.

The key is to acknowledge that part of you that can sabotage you. The key is to make friends with her. And look her dead in the eye. You have lived with your relationship with food for your entire life. You know how it works. And you also know how it doesn't. And you know how you and how life can get in your own way.

One of the best ways to impact your success when you are trying to break a pattern with overeating or emotional eating is to leverage your wisdom. And specifically to leverage your own inner knowledge about how you sabotage yourself. And the best part of this is you don't have to feel strong or confident, or even fake strength or confidence to get helpful information that is going to get you better results.

And we're talking about self-sabotage here. It is a human trait. Do not go down a guilt rabbit hole about self-sabotage. It is human nature. We have a part of ourselves that gets in our own way. It's just how we're built. It's an old protective mechanism that easily comes to the surface when you're feeling vulnerable. Or when you are trying to do something new, when you're trying to make changes. Our brains love familiarity. When you are trying to take emotional risks. Like believing something is possible or having hope about something that you have failed at or not done well with in the past. Right? Which is so true for so many people with overeating. Or who are working to make changes with their weight.

Your self saboteur is very talented, extremely talented, and she knows how to trip you up. She knows how to tie you a knots or get you completely off track, or even prevent you from starting. Talk about self-protection.

So we have this part of ourselves that can sabotage us. That does sabotage us. And it is easy to create this adversarial relationship with it or to try to avoid her. Or to avoid thinking about her. Or to just, you know, grit our teeth and say, if I work really hard, maybe she will go away. Or to just numb out and not think about her at all.

But there is a much more effective approach. Here's what I want to encourage you to do. I want to encourage you to look that self saboteur in the eye. Get to know her and leverage her talent, and leverage her abilities.

Here's the power question that I love so much. Whatever it is that you want to do, whatever it is, you want to stop eating ice cream at night. Or you want to journal about your feelings each morning. Or you want to pause and pay attention, check into your hunger levels or how hungry or how full you are.

Maybe you want to be more mindful of the reasons for your eating. Whatever it is that you want to do, try asking yourself this. If I was fully invested in sabotaging myself and preventing myself from accomplishing this thing. If I was fully invested in not being successful and getting in my own way, what would I do this week? If I was fully invested in sabotaging myself and preventing myself from doing the thing that I have decided I want to do, what would I do to sabotage myself this week?

Ask yourself that question and then write down everything that comes to mind. Don't judge it. Just be curious and write down everything that comes to mind. Try it. You might actually be surprised at how easily your thoughts will start flowing. And this is kind of eye-opening for people who are feeling stuck. Right?

We are hardwired to be more tuned in to what could go wrong and to what we don't want. Those answers come easily for us. We are. It is so much easier for our brains to make a list of how we would blow something than it is to catch the thread of the things we really want. What do you desire? What do you want? What do you need?

Negative thinking kicks in so easily. So we get to leverage it. This is an instance where we can use it as a tool. So inside Your Missing Peace members, like I, I can think of so many conversations where somebody is absolutely stuck. They have no answers to what do I need to do to move forward? What do I want to do to move forward? But then when they ask this question, okay, if I was going to sabotage my ability to move forward, what would I do? The answer is just, I mean, they don't even skip a beat. They're just right there on the tip of their tongue or on the tip of your brain. Right?

So I'll tell you some stories. There was a member in the program who, I asked her what she would do if she was on a mission to completely sabotage herself from eating the way she planned to and enjoying herself on an upcoming vacation. She had a vacation that she was looking forward to. The question, how would you sabotage it? That was so easy for her to answer. She said, I wouldn't make any concrete plans. I would just have a bunch of ideas in my head.

I would set a bunch of standards for myself that I know at the very beginning are unrealistic. And then as I didn't meet those standards, those rules that I had for myself on vacation, I would beat myself up as it went along. And then I wouldn't think ahead of time about the food. I certainly wouldn't like make any plans because it's vacation. But then that wouldn't feel very comfortable. So then we would go out to eat and I would just decide, oh, it's all ruined I'm just going to eat everything. And then I would just order whatever, and then I would be mad at myself, and then I wouldn't be enjoying myself. And then I would just go into this mindless eating thing. And then I would just wake up from my food coma after vacation and I'd be frustrated and really angry with myself. That's how I would sabotage it. Okay.

Somebody else who was experimenting with taking more time for herself to relax. She was really trying to get better at being present with herself and taking time for herself to relax instead of stress eating. So how would she sabotage it? She said, well, I would expect perfection. I would expect that I would get it perfect. And I would tell myself that, it's really kind of indulgent for me to be doing this in the first place because there's so much wrong in the world and there's so many people who have bigger problems than me.

And I'd also tell myself that it should be really easy. And when it isn't, cuz I know it isn't easy for me, then I would tell myself that there's something wrong with me. Instead of being more tolerant with myself. And then I would get impatient with myself, and then I would get stressed out, and then I would probably go get something to eat.

I think it is so fascinating how each and every one of us probably knows exactly how we could undermine ourselves. Or how we habitually do, undermine ourselves. How we sabotage ourselves.

So, another client who has an upcoming graduation party that she is planning said, okay, how would you sabotage this? Well, I would over prepare. I tend to do that. So I would over prepare like I usually do. So that by the time of the party I am tired and I'm tense, and I'm frustrated. I would not ask for help. I would completely overestimate the amount of food that we need. And then I would exhaust myself in getting all this work done, which is probably unnecessary.

And then I wouldn't think about what to do with the leftovers. And we would have all this food and I wouldn't want to waste it. So one day, one day of partying and having this party food turned into at least a week of overeating. And to be honest, some of that food I don't even love.

See where this is going. Do you see how this works? A participant in the free workshop series that I did last week said, well, how would I sabotage this? I would expect that hearing something once should change everything for me. I really like what I heard, so if I really wanted to sabotage what I am getting from the workshop, I would just expect that hearing something once would change everything for me. Even though I know that the patterns in my head and the way I have been treating food, this has been going on for years.

This came up, we were having a conversation about why the Missing Peace program is a six month program. Because there's a huge difference between hearing something once. You know, listening to a training in a workshop series or even a podcast episode and continually digesting it and metabolizing it over a longer period of time.

And a major way that so many smart women sabotage themselves is by being impatient with themselves. Expecting instant results, and then throwing the baby out with the bathwater when change happens in layers. When progress happens over time. Okay?

Can you see the incredibly valuable information that just bubbles up when you ask this question? If I was fully invested in sabotaging myself and preventing myself from succeeding, what would I do? And you can say, what would I do this week? How would I sabotage myself this week?

So you can turn yourself saboteur into your secret weapon. If you answer the question honestly about, you know, if you were hell-bent on sabotaging yourself, what would you do? You are now handling gold. The information you have is so valuable. And so your next step is pretty simple. Just take a look at what your self saboteur would do. Or wouldn't do or would ignore. And then ask yourself, what are the simplest or the most straightforward things that I could try to circumvent this. To prevent that self sabotaging part of me from taking over?

And by the way, we're not just talking about that part of you. We're also because one of the ways that we sabotage ourselves is that we get really naive or blind to the reality of life. Life sabotages us or we sabotage ourselves when we're not realistic. When we're perfectionistic about what we can achieve in the midst of our life.

So do you love this question? I love this question.

If you are not getting the results that you want. If you are feeling stuck about how to make progress. If you feel like you get a little bit of traction and you get going, and then it fizzles out. Leverage that self-sabotaging part of yourself. Start with the negative. Your brain loves to tell you the negative.

If I was going to screw this up completely, if I was hell-bent on sabotaging the thing that I want, what would I do? And then take that information and figure out your next step.

I'll talk to you soon.


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Your Missing Peace is the psychologist-designed program that provides the tools, the support, the coaching, and the confidence to create freedom from emotional eating and overeating. Finally - emotional eating help done right! Your Missing Peace is specifically designed for smart, high-achieving women who are DONE with diets, who want a lasting solution, and who are ready to take their power back from food, from overeating, and the scale. 

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