In this episode of How to Live a Life of Peace with Food, I talk about self-sabotage and what it means, why I think it isn’t useful and offer another way to think about overeating which might be more helpful. This is the first of 3 videos about meeting your needs without resorting to food by default.
FREE worksheet available to download here.
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Welcome to my bite-size video series on How to Live a Life of Peace with Food. This is the first of three videos about meeting your needs without resorting to food by default. In this video, I’m going to talk about self-sabotage. I’ll tell you what it means, why I think it isn’t useful and offer another way to think about overeating, which might be more helpful.
My name is Vania Phitidis and I am the founder of Peaceful Eating, where I help people stop obsessing about their bodies and what, when and how much to eat, so they feel relaxed around food, at ease in their bodies, and use all that freed up energy to do the things that really matter to them. I’m a certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor, a qualified mindful eating coach and I’ve been mentoring and coaching people for over two decades.
Today we’re talking about self-sabotage. To me, self-sabotage describes opposing forces within; where one part of you wants something new or healthier for yourself and another part of you seems to want the exact opposite because you carry out actions that don’t align with that intention. This can be enormously frustrating and upsetting.
As an example, if you think about your relationship with food, you might have an intention to eat when you’re hungry most of the time (remember – we all eat when we’re not hungry sometimes!). What happens is that you find you’re often eating when you’re not hungry – maybe you binge eat, or mindlessly graze day after day. You might ask yourself: why do I always sabotage myself? It’s as if there’s another part of you that has some mal-intent towards you. Does that sound familiar?
The reason why the idea of self-sabotage is problematic for me is its premise that one can ever be against oneself! That somehow we are our own worst enemy. I don’t see how that helps anyone. All it does is set up a constant internal battle where one part of you is trying to beat or overcome another part of you through sheer willpower. It’s exhausting and ultimately futile, because – well – when there are winners, there are also losers – and since this is a fight within yourself, some part of you will be losing.
How can we re-frame this, so you have an all-round win? Here is a simple yet profound way to think about what is going on when you think you’re sabotaging yourself:
EVERY ACTION IS AN ATTEMPT TO MEET A NEED.
I’ll say that again:
EVERY ACTION IS AN ATTEMPT TO MEET A NEED.
This means that both sides of you are attempting to meet a need… It’s not that you’re sabotaging your self – what’s happening instead is that your self is trying to get your attention. It’s trying to alert you to your unmet needs.
Perhaps you recognise yourself in these examples:
Say your intention is to eat when you’re hungry, most of the time.
You’ve had a long and busy day and in the evening, there are kids to supervise, dinner to arrange and the breakfast dishes are still in the sink.
So you can keep going, you eat, even though you’re not actually hungry yet.
You could see this as self-sabotage.
But let’s look at it through the lens of an attempt to meet a need.
What you feel as you arrive home is tired and overwhelmed. Your need is for rest and space.
But because your mind is demanding that you keep doing more and being more to others, you eat in an attempt to shore up your energy instead of actually resting;
When I ask my clients how eating creates a sense of space, they tell me that when they’re eating in this way, they zone out – and that kind-of-sort-of feels like space – but isn’t really – because they still feel exhausted.
Say you’ve had an argument with a loved one – things are said that hurt and you find yourself eating even though you’re not hungry.
You could see this as self-sabotage because you want one thing for yourself – which is to eat mostly in response to hunger, but you’re doing something else – using food to soothe your feelings when you’re not hungry.
If we look at it through the lens of attempting to meet your needs, we might discover that your need is to feel safe and secure in the relationship even if you are having an argument.
While the food provides short-term comfort and a temporary distraction from the pain, food can’t actually meet your need for emotional safety – so your need goes unmet.
Can you see how looking through the lens of needs is more helpful than the self-blame of self-sabotage?
So – what do you do next?
One way to address this is to become the private investigator of your own life and to be curious about which needs you’re consistently attempting to meet with food.
Simply asking yourself ‘what need am I attempting to meet with food’ might reveal some answers for you. You can also use a list of needs I’ve created, that’s available for you to download by clicking on the link in the text accompanying this video. Take a look at it and see if there are any that jump out at you.
Some of the most common unmet needs that I see showing up again and again with my clients are:
- the need for rest,
- emotional safety,
- love and acceptance,
- stimulation and autonomy.
When you’ve identified the needs you most commonly attempt to meet with food, you can start to find alternative behaviours that truly meet that need.
I’ve included a worksheet for you to do just that, which you can download here.
The next piece is to practice these alternatives on purpose, with kindness and flexibility.
It might be that this isn’t enough investigation for you to consistently meet your needs without food. If that’s the case, look out for the next video – because I’ll be sharing with you in more detail, how to identify them, so you can keep moving forward in your journey of making peace with food.
I’d love to know if this was useful to you.
Please leave your questions and comments below and I will do my best to reply to them personally.
If you found this video helpful, please share it. It might help someone else who is quietly but continuously fighting that internal battle.
You can change the course of your relationship with food. I’m here for you. And I can’t wait to support you to do just that.
If you want tailored, expert and compassionate support in making peace with food, eating and your body – book a free Discovery Session to explore working 1:1.
Until then, bye from me, and I’ll see you in the second of this three-part video series on meeting your needs without resorting to food.