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How to Stop Self-Sabotaging with Food

emotional eating Nov 10, 2021
woman eating doughnut

It’s exhausting to spend your whole life feeling self-conscious about your weight.

Worrying about what other people think of you every time you leave the house, hating yourself every time you eat something you shouldn’t, and then spending all day obsessing over how you’re going to make up for it.

Yet sometimes, the only thing that can truly make you feel better in those moments of shame and self-hatred… is food (I’ve been there).

If you feel like you’ve tried everything and you know exactly what to do but you just can’t seem to get yourself to do it, it’s because something is sabotaging your success.

These 7 mindset shifts will help you break the cycle:

1. Food cravings are a symptom, not a problem

A common mistake most of us make is that we think our food cravings are these horrible things that we absolutely need to control. We use willpower to resist the cravings, until we eventually run out and end up stuffing our faces with whatever food we can get our hands on. Then, of course, we feel so ashamed that we then go on yet another diet in the hope that this time it’s going to work.

But here’s the thing: diets and exercise are never going to be able to fix our issues with food. Because our issues with food have nothing to do with food. It’s about what we use food for.

That’s why just trying to ignore our cravings or using willpower to resist them doesn’t actually make them go away. If anything, they just get more intense because we never deal with the underlying problem.

Our food cravings are letting us know there’s an underlying need that’s not being met. When we figure out what that underlying need is and learn to meet it in a more supportive way, the need for food goes away.

2. Get curious about why you turn to food

When we beat ourselves up for overeating, this leaves us feeling so guilty and ashamed about ourselves that we end up turning to food to make ourselves feel better. This means that judging and criticising ourselves for eating is actually what keeps the cycle going!

If you want to break the cycle, stop judging yourself so harshly and instead start asking yourself: “Why did I just binge? What triggered me? What feelings am I trying to numb with food?”

Choosing curiosity and self-compassion over judgment is your ticket to breaking the cycle once and for all.

3. Feel your feelings

We disconnect from our feelings as a way of protecting ourselves, because very few of us ever learned how to properly cope with our emotions when we were little. Instead, we had to find different ways to self-soothe and self-regulate, and turning to food was a brilliant way of doing that.

But now that we’re adults, it’s actually way more painful to keep numbing our emotions than it is to feel them. When we numb and escape our feelings using food, the pain doesn’t actually go away. However, when we allow ourselves to sit with our feelings, they clear out within minutes.

Easier said than done, though. Many of us have 30, 40, even 50 years’ worth of well-rehearsed ways to avoid feeling our feelings at all costs. Before we can equip ourselves with the skills needed to process our emotions in a healthy way, we first need to unlearn all the ways we distract ourselves from our emotions. But with practice and guidance from a mental health practitioner, it’s certainly not an impossible feat.

4. You can’t shame yourself into change

Many of us have been taught to believe that if we just hate ourselves enough, it’ll motivate us to do something about it. But while this carrot-and-stick approach might work for a little bit, it’s never sustainable. Because what do we do when we don’t feel good about ourselves? We turn to food to make ourselves feel better!

One vital shift we need to make to stop self-sabotaging with food is to leave shame at the door and start treating ourselves with love and respect.

Imagine there’s a colleague at work you really don’t like… you’re not going to go out of your way to do nice things for them, right? Well, it’s the same with our bodies.

If we hate our body, we’re not going to go treat it nicely. We see things like eating healthy or exercising as a punishment for being fat, when they should actually be acts of self-love.

So, instead of eating a certain way because you hate your body, start asking yourself: “If I loved myself, how would I treat myself? If I respected my body, what would I eat? If I cared for myself, how would I look after myself today?”

When we do this, we stop treating ourselves like our worst enemy and start treating ourselves like a friend.

5. You are your own expert

When we embark on a diet and look to other people to tell us what to eat, we stop trusting ourselves and put our faith in other people’s hands. Yet, most of these so-called “experts” simply take what works for them and then apply that onto our body, without truly knowing whether that’s right for us or not.

The only person who knows what’s right for you, is you.

You are your own expert. Your body is constantly trying to give you clues about what it wants, what works, what doesn’t work, but most of us don’t listen.

If you want to break the cycle and finally find a way of eating that works for your unique body and lifestyle, start listening to your body! Everything you need to know is already within you.

6. Stop waiting until you lose weight to start living your life

How many times do you tell yourself: “Once I lose weight, then I’ll….”?

Each week, women from all over the globe tell me about the things they’re missing out on in their life because of how they feel about themselves — and it breaks my heart.

Just last week, a lady shared with me that she sends her husband to the beach with the kids because she just can’t bear the idea of being seen in a bathing suit. She knows her kids would love nothing more for her to be there with them, but she just feels too self-conscious to go — instead, she stays at home and ends up comforting herself with food.

As human beings we’re constantly seeking joyful experiences, things that make us feel fulfilled. Unfortunately, many of us feel too self-conscious and afraid to go after what we really want in life. But as a result, we lack joy in our life. And guess where we go and seek that joy instead? In food!

Start making a list of all the things that you’ve been waiting to do until you lose weight, and start doing them now. I can guarantee you that your kids, your friends, your family, they don’t care about what you look like, they just want you to be there so you can make lasting memories together.

7. Share your journey with others

Since many of us feel ashamed about being out of control around food, we hide and isolate ourselves from the world. We often don’t speak up about our struggles, thinking that everyone else has their sh*t together and that we’re the only ones who don’t.

At least that’s how I felt. For 20 years, I never told anyone that I struggled with binge eating. Heck, for most of my life I didn’t even know I was binge eating — I just thought I s*cked at sticking to a diet.

Society makes us feel like losing weight is the easiest thing in the world — you “just have to eat less and exercise more”. So, when we’re not able to do so, we feel like a failure and end up suffering in silence. We hide our binges from the world, hide the evidence at the bottom of the garbage bin as if it never happened, we try to fix ourselves, going on diet after diet after diet, only to eventually realise that nothing works.

But keeping silent is not the answer, because secrecy and silence only breed more shame. So, start sharing your story with others!

I really hope you’ll spend some time implementing these 7 mindset shifts into your life because you SO deserve to become your own best friend again and feel confident in your own skin, exactly as you are.