When Rebellion is Sabotaging You | TMOHP Episode 049

We all have an inner rebel and, while this is perfectly human, when your inner rebel takes over, it can feel like you’re stuck in a vicious cycle of overeating and self-sabotage. From there, it’s a short step down into a spiral of self-blame or frustration with yourself. 

Diet culture is a part of the problem. You’ve likely been conditioned to believe that there is “good eating” and “bad eating.” Within this framework, you’re either complying, and following the rules, or you’re not. When we’re given two choices, it can be a set-up for feeling constrained, or even trapped - and this is precisely the set of circumstances that can lead us to feel like pushing back - rebellious.

How do we juggle all the moving parts? How do we listen to ourselves, acknowledge that feeling of “I don’t want to” and not feel like we’re held captive in a cycle of rebellious self-sabotage?

This is exactly what I’m covering in this episode.

Let’s explore:

  • When we rebel against ourselves or don’t want to do something (like change our eating) even when we think we really want to.
  • Signs of inner rebellion you may be missing
  • Breaking the cycle of reaction mode so that you can make the choices you ultimately want.

Featured on the show:

Episode Transcript

Let's talk about the thought “I don't want to”. I want to talk today about when we say we want to do something and then we feel like we don't want to do it in the moment. When it feels like our inner rebel is showing up and sabotaging us. There's some important stuff here. 

Have you ever felt like you don't want to do that thing that you really want to accomplish? You have this goal, but you just don't really want to do the thing. Or you feel like you do really want to do the thing and you put together the plan and let's make it about eating… You make a plan to change your eating. Here is the way you're going to eat and you just know it's going to work and you know, it's going to feel good. But then you feel like you're inner rebel is sabotaging you.

Have you ever eaten at someone? You're so frustrated and you're so mad and you're just going to go eat at them. Or, have you eaten to prove that you could eat? You can order that thing. You've ordered the thing on the menu that you don't even know you truly want, because you're not going to feel like you can't have it.

Have you ever eaten to prove that no one can tell you that you couldn't eat that? Some of you know exactly what I'm talking about and rebellion this kind of pushing back or I'll show you, or I'm going to take charge. Nobody's going to tell me what I can do. This is a dynamic that we need to talk about, especially when it comes to overeating and emotional eating.

The urge to rebel is human. It's just a human response. And like all things, that urge to rebel is stronger in some people than in others. Some people have a real style of being rebellious. That's human. It does not have to be a problem, but it's important to understand it. There is almost always power in understanding the reason that we do the things that we do.

If you don't understand, rebellion or that feeling of, “I don't want to”, can be a major source of overeating. It can create ongoing patterns of overeating and binging and those patterns, those feelings of rebellion, or “I don't want to”, that you aren't understanding that are operating on autopilot. 

Here's the thing, and this is true whether we're talking about eating or about taking care of ourselves or parenting decisions, actually, any kind of decision. We are in our power when we are aware, when we are intentional and when we are deciding. Rebelling is a reaction. When we rebel, we're pushing back against something. We're in reaction mode, it's a choice that is made in reaction or in opposition in response to something else.

Reaction mode is very different from coming from an intentional place. And much of the time, reaction mode is quick. It's emotionally based. It's often on autopilot. It does not come from a place of making a thought or a deliberate choice. So think about how that kind of rebellious or reaction mode thinking or how reaction mode reacting can play out when it comes to making choices about eating or cycles of overeating and eating on autopilot, mindless eating. There's a lot of eating. The kind of eating that leaves people feeling ultimately unhappy with their choices that comes from a place of reaction or rebellion and from what I think of as the “I don't want to feeling”. 

That “I don't want to” feeling that “I don't want to” thought can lead to other thoughts. Like I don't want to eat healthy. I don't want to make a salad. I don't want to not have French fries. I don't want to not get an appetizer. I don't want to tell myself, no. I don't want to. Do you recognize that voice? Do you have a voice like that that comes up inside your head? I hear from a lot of women who are frustrated with wanting to change overeating and wanting to change emotional eating habits, but it's not working for them.

And part of the problem is that they are pushing against that feeling “I don't want to”. Then when they hit that, I don't want to place their inner rebel is more than happy to cooperate. Then you get the, I don't want to, you should, you have to, but I don't want to. And then the inner rebel is like, forget it, we're not doing this. 

See if you can recognize a pattern that goes something like this- you decide how you're going to eat today. Maybe you've planned out your meals. Maybe you've planned out what your choices are going to be when you snack. And then it gets to be late in the afternoon. You're looking at that snack and maybe you're tired or bored, or maybe you just have low blood sugar and you have this thought I don't want to, I don't want that. And in that moment, there can be the illusion that you have two choices. Number one, you can be strong and do it anyway. Who cares that you don't want it? This was the plan. Or number two, you can side with the inner rebel that I don't want to voice. And you can just push back, forget that “good choice”.

Let me repeat here- there is nothing wrong with feeling rebellious. You have every right- as if anyone even gives you rights to your feelings. So you have every option to make a decision that is pushing back that is being rebellious against a thought or a feeling or a decision or a situation. But what I see over and over, and what I've experienced for myself is that when I eat as a reaction to something that isn't hunger and specifically, if I'm eating one thing, because I don't want to eat another thing,  it's like I'm not going to do this thing. So I'm going to do that thing instead. I'm putting myself in a forced choice situation that just doesn't feel good and it doesn't create the result that I want. And ultimately it leaves me frustrated with myself. I'm either in a battle with my inner rebel or I'm going along with my inner rebel and I'm ignoring the thing that I said that I wanted to do, which again is going to leave me mad and frustrated with myself in the end.

In episode 46, I talked about this thing called snowballing. I'll put the link to that in the show notes. If you've listened to that, you know what I'm talking about. Otherwise you want to go check that out because if you combine eating too rebel or overeating, because you don't want to eat the way that you are telling yourself, you should be eating, if you combine those things with snowballing it's pretty common to get stuck in a vicious cycle of feeling overwhelmed and then overeating or binging because you don't want to do what you think will break the cycle. You don't want to do the thing that you're telling yourself you should do. You're in this big battle with your rebel and you just want to push back against it. And your inner catastrophizer is telling you that everything is messed up now anyway. So it becomes a vicious cycle of snowballing and shoulding on yourself, telling yourself what you should be doing, and then having the feeling I don't want to, and then rebelling against it and then feeling bad and then rinsing and repeating the cycle.

Do you recognize that cycle or is there something similar that can happen to you when it comes to food and your relationship with food and your attempts to make changes in your eating? Let's take a deep breath. Here are my thoughts about that. I don't want to feeling and the rebellious overeating that can come as a result of that, you can break the cycle because the cycle is stealing your power.

Here's a better alternative- stop making this a forced choice. Your brain wants this to be a forced choice. You either do this or you do that and you don't want to do this. So let's do that. It doesn't have to be this way. Instead of ping ponging between I don't want to, and I have to, and I'm not going to (which is the rebellion), step out of reaction mode. 

How do you step out of reaction mode? You take a deep breath. And one of the most powerful ways to break a cycle of reacting is to try getting curious. Ask yourself questions. I will tell you, there's not one right magic question that is going to break this open for everybody, but I will give you some examples of questions that can help you start to see things in a different way. Move beyond those choices of, I don't want to, I have to, I'm going to blow it all up. Ask yourself questions. “Why don't you want to? Why don't you want to eat the healthy snack? Why don't you want to not have an appetizer?” 

This is not a sneaky way to try to get you to do the other thing. This is really a way to be curious and understand what is fueling the I don't want to, maybe you're too tired to want to. It's important to start to get that information, ask yourself a question. What are you telling yourself you should be doing that you don't want to? Are you secretly making it bigger or heavier than it needs to be?

Are you making it all encompassing? Are you making it a forever thing? When it could be just a choice that you're going to make for the next 15 minutes? What are you telling yourself that adds to that feeling of I don't want to? Another question might be, what are you needing in this moment that is not either the thing you're saying you should do, or the complete act of eating rebellion. What other things do you need? What else is going on? Here's a question. If you throw out both of those options doing the thing you should do or not doing the thing that you should do, is there an option C? Is there a move, an action that you could take that would feel positive, but that would also feel better or maybe fit better in this moment than that should thing that you don't want to do? Is there something kind you could do for yourself? Another question is I don't want to, is that a sign that you're in deprivation mode? Is it a sign that you are trying to do things that you have made too hard? Is it a sign that this plan that you've put together isn't really workable and needs some adjusting or needs to be revamped?

Another big question. What do you want to do? If you know what you don't want to do, what do you know about what you do want to do that has nothing to do with food or eating or depriving yourself or doing a hard thing? What do you want to do in this moment? That I don't want to feeling- it can be a symptom that you aren't getting what you need. That you haven't built a foundation where your needs are being taken care of. It can be a signal that you're coming from a place of should. It could be a signal that you're coming from a place of other people's expectations and that you've gotten out of touch. Or maybe you haven't connected with the why, the reason that you're asking yourself to do these things the motivation that is ultimately going to give you the momentum to reach your goal. 

A question that might be helpful in some situations is to revisit that goal, that you're telling yourself, you should do this thing. Obviously, the thing you're doing that you don't really want to do is supposed to lead you somewhere toward a goal we're imagining. So why do you want that goal? Why do you really want that? I think it's always important if you're feeling a lot of I don't want to is this a momentary thing or is there a possibility that you could move towards that goal in a way that you actually want to move? Is there a path toward that goal that would feel more like you that would feel better? That wouldn't set up that I don't want to. 

And here is a real powerhouse question. When it comes to rebellious, overeating and emotional eating the act of rebelling, it feels powerful or empowering or good or positive in some way to at least a part of you. So ask yourself, what are you believing about rebelling in this moment? What are you making it mean? If you let yourself make that choice that feels rebellious or that feels like throwing it all up into the air or eating whatever you want or whatever that rebellious thing is. What are you making it mean? If you do it, whatever the thing is, what are you making it mean? And remember no judgment.

There's nothing inherently wrong with rebellion, but if you're telling yourself a story that isn't true, if you are telling yourself a story like eating a quart of ice cream feels fantastic. Or if you're telling yourself that whatever it is that you're setting yourself up to eat is going to make you feel fantastic and it's going to be the best thing that ever happened to you today, and that you totally deserve it. When really it's going to leave you feeling bloated or miserable or angry at yourself. If you are telling yourself stories about what you are going to get from rebelling and they aren't really true. Then you are going to be more powerful if you understand the story that you're weaving here. 

If you start to understand the story that you have about why it feels so empowering to rebel in this moment. And especially if you start to notice the pieces of that story that aren't accurate, you will begin to have more power. To make decisions that are mindful and intentional, and aren't things that are happening in reaction mode sometimes outside of your actual moment to moment awareness?

So take a breath, give yourself permission to step outside the battle between you have to, and you don't want to. You could even put the issue of eating over to the side for a moment and then ask yourself what you know about what else you want. What do you want? Put food to the side. What do you want to do if eating wasn't even an option, and we're assuming that you aren't hungry here, what do you want to do? How could you take care of yourself? And even if you don't know the answer, what do you know about what else you are needing outside of that battle between I should, I don't want to, I think I'll just rebel.

Here's the thing about I don't want to, and that whole cycle of inner rebellion. Much like dealing with a tired toddler, we're going to be far more effective and actually far more empowered if we seek to understand and to intervene with compassion. We can treat ourselves that same way. If like all human beings, you find yourself struggling with that feeling of I don't want to, I don't want to change my eating.

Even when you want to change your eating, ask yourself, what is the, I don't want to trying to tell you?

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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