7 Reasons Behind Self-Sabotage

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Getting rid of binge eating is a long journey. When your relationship with food improves, you might experience a pull toward food again. You may sabotage your success or even relapse

Why does this happen? What's keeping you stuck? How do you deal with it? 

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Read on to find out more.

Why do I self-sabotage?

This might sound strange, but success can be scary. You might think, “That sounds crazy. Of course, I want to lose weight. That doesn’t make me nervous. It’s want I want more than anything. ” 

That’s logical. But, our mind don’t always behave logically. Often, it’s not logical, it’s psychological. Our mind has its own ways of interpreting things. 

There are seven kinds of fears that may linger inside your unconscious mind. Let's understand how they sabotage your efforts.

What's keeping you stuck?

Fear of success

It's counterintuitive, but success can be scary. Once we succeed, we often worry if we’ll be able to maintain that success. It can be easier to not succeed in the first place. When we don't reach our goals, we don’t have to worry about losing ground or being humiliated by visibly regaining weight.

Besides that, many people fear the outcome of success. Friends and other relationships might change when you stop bingeing and lose weight. One client realized that what kept her connected with some friends was their mutual wish to lose weight. Once she was no longer joining in their diet talk, they had less to say to each other and she felt a loss.

Once you become binge-free, you might also feel as if you have less in common with certain people, or that your weight loss may invite their jealousy. 

Fear of failure

Fear of failure is related to perfectionism, rejection, and judgment. Many of us feel bad about ourselves when we fail at a goal. We’re conditioned to see failure as something wrong, so we feel like a “failure” and personalize failure, rather than seeing it as a stepping stone to success. 

“What if I fail?” can be a powerful motivator to stop giving it our best. 

Fear of expectation

When we think of becoming binge-free or reaching a specific weight goal, we start to have expectations about what life will be like on that side of the bathroom scale. The fear of expectation means that you believe that by changing your life, you’ll change your life. 

If you think that when you stop bingeing and lose weight you’ll start dating, find a new job, have a baby, go to grad school, leave your partner, or take some risk, then there’s a lot of expectation about what you’ll gain in life by losing weight. 

But what if your life doesn't change? The idea of not living up to expectations can be too much so you give up before you meet your goal. 

Fear of impulsivity

One of my clients confessed that she feared she would cheat on her husband if she lost weight. Whenever she got close to her 130 pounds dream goal, she celebrated with ice cream. 

Then she’d binge for a month before starting another diet and the diet-binge cycle continued. As long as she was focused on losing weight, she wasn’t thinking about her unsatisfying marriage. 

A good way to proceed is to ask yourself what your hopes and fears are about creating change? What is one thing you'd do if you became binge-free and you didn’t think about food all the time? When you face your fears, they lose their power.

Fear of objectification

Sometimes, weight becomes the way to protect yourself from the unwanted gaze of others, and from physical intimacy.

People who have negative experiences with intimacy are often afraid of being viewed as objects. Whether they were sexually abused or shamed in some way about their appearance, they try to disappear from view by being overweight because that makes them feel invisible.

If any of these fears resonate with you, it's important to figure out why you're afraid of sexual or romantic attention.

Start working through your associations to intimacy and relationships by considering what you fear will happen if you feel attractive and why.

Fear of intimacy

Remember Julia Roberts's character in the movie Runaway Bride and her changing preferences for eggs? The type of eggs she liked depended on the kind her fiances liked..

Many of us believe on some level that we have to give up ourselves to be in a relationship. If you think relationships will drain you or change you, you might tell yourself you can’t be in a relationship until you lose weight. Which means, when you start getting healthier, it will scare you on some level and you’ll end up bingeing again.

When you perceive relationships as healthy and associate intimacy with increasing your enjoyment of life, you will not fear connection. When we have fulfilling relationships, we stop seeking companionship (and literal fulfillment) from food.

Fear of happiness

We yearn for happiness but on another level, many of us are afraid that if we get too happy, the proverbial rug will be pulled out from under us. So, what do we do? We don't allow ourselves to become too happy and we sabotage ourselves. 

Perhaps you attach a positive meaning to unhappiness: True artists must suffer, or it's noble to struggle, or suffering makes you a better person. That can translate into a notion that you're a good person if you suffer and a bad person if you embrace joy.

When you allow yourself to trust the idea that happiness can last, you'll allow yourself to stay on track without sabotaging your efforts.

Which of these seven fears can you most identify with? Take out a notepad or open up your notes on your phone and write down which types of sabotage resonate with you (there can be more than one). 

Identifying the true reasons behind self-sabotage is the first step to creating lasting change.

How to deal with self-sabotage?

Be compassionate

Be kind to yourself. We all make mistakes, so don't backlash or shame yourself. Your self-talk influences the way you feel and perceive yourself. 

So, speak to yourself the way you'll speak to a friend. Don’t make mistakes your identity and believe in your abilities to solve problems for you.

Acknowledge progress

There’s an old proverb: Fall down seven times. Get up eight.

It’s normal to fall on your journey to change your relationship with yourself and with food. What's important is to get back up and keep going, to learn from each experience. 

After all, nobody sits down at the piano or any instrument and plays it right away. First we learn where to put our fingers, how to make sounds, how to play chords, and we keep practicing until we finally are able to play. Strive for progress, not perfection.

Neutralize fear

Future fears can make you have here-and-now worries about something that may or may not occur in the future. This is “what if” thinking about could happen in the future, but it causes real anxiety in the present about an event that has not occurred.

What if I gain weight after eating that cookie sandwich/pizza/cake? 

What if I can’t ever stop eating? 

What if I ask someone out on a date and get rejected?

The antidote to future fears is to stay present in the here and now.

Replace “what if” to “what is” which is reality and what you know to be true in the present. It’s what’s actually true and grounded in reality.

I am the same weight I was this morning.

I am working on a new approach to stop bingeing.

My friends and colleagues find me friendly and approachable.

When you think of what is actually happening, you’re less likely to feel anxious, worried, or upset.

Create a Vision of the Future

“If you can imagine it, you can create it.”

If you don't know where you want to be, how will you know when you get there? One way to do that is to create a vision board, a visual depiction of how you want your life to look, a visual that shows what success and happiness look like.

Let's imagine your ideal life. Consider what your day looks like. Think about the people you interact with each day. What is your job? What do you do for fun? Look through magazines or a newspaper, and cut out the words and images that appeal to you. Or, go online and find images that sit your vision.

Create your vision and watch yourself grow into this new life. Self-sabotage becomes trickier when you know exactly what you want.

Self-sabotage is not the end of your binge-free journey but rather a part of it. So instead of feeling bad if you sabotage yourself, learn from the experience and keep going. To learn more about becoming binge-free, read my book, The Binge Cure: 7 Steps to Outsmart Emotional Eating, where I present step-by-step strategies and tools to make peace with food forever. If you have questions, comment below or DM me on my Instagram. I'll be happy to respond to you, or you can ask it in my Facebook community.

 The Author



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Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin is a psychoanalyst, author and radio host specializing in binge eating disorder. She is the author of The Binge Cure: 7 Steps to Outsmart Emotional Eating and Food for Thought: Perspectives on Eating Disorders, and co-editor of Beyond the Primal Addiction. She hosts The Dr. Nina Show radio program on LA Talk Radio. Her recent TEDx talk is Why Binge Eating is NOT about Food.