Self-sabotage is common and happens to people from all walks of life. Many people with food addiction, emotional eating or binge eating self-sabotage with food as a way to numb unpleasant emotions or cope with stressful situations. This can lead to feelings of failure and can worsen the behaviors or body dissatisfaction. Then you can get stuck in the vicious cycle of binge eating, obsessing about food and being dissatisfied with your body. Rinse, Repeat.

In this video you will learn:

1. What the connection is between perfectionism and self-sabotage
2. How trauma can be a cause of self-sabotage
3. 4 tips on how to stop self-sabotage in its tracks

If you’re interested in learning more about food addiction, enter the book sweepstakes to win a copy of The Food Addiction Recovery Workbook.

Schedule a free consult to discuss your food and body image issues:

To learn more about The Anchor Program a 12-week non-diet program offering ONLINE group and individual sessions for the treatment of binge eating, emotional eating, food addiction and compulsive overeating. Want to learn more about the Anchor Program?


Hi, it’s Dr. Carolyn here with episode number 91, How to Stop Self-sabotage from Ruining Your Life Now. So we’re going to be talking about this topic, which most of us experience and which we all find frustrating. You’re going to learn a lot, stay tuned.

Welcome to the Dr. Carolyn Coker Ross Show. I’m Dr. Carolyn and I’m a medical doctor who specializes in treating eating disorders and addictions. I’ve been working with individuals with binge eating disorder, compulsive over eating, food addiction, and emotional eating for over 20 years. I’m also the founder of the anchor program, an international online non-diet coaching program for people with food and body image issues that you can access from the comfort of your own home. Please check out my books, The Emotional Eating Workbook, The Binge Eating and Compulsive Overeating Workbook and my latest book, The Food Addiction Recovery Workbook. I’m on a mission to help individuals just like you transform your relationship with food and with your body.

I think most of you, you know what self-sabotage is, and that it’s very common and it happens to people from all walks of life, celebrities, political figures, other people in the media, as well as us common folks. Just think about, you know, the fact that most people make new year’s resolutions in January and over 80% of them have failed on their new year’s resolution by February that’s only a month. So self-sabotage is also pretty common among people with binge eating disorder, food addiction, emotional eating, and compulsive overeating. One definition of self-sabotage is undermining yourself or your own plans and goals. As self-sabotage occurs, when we destroy ourselves both physically, mentally, or emotionally, or deliberately undermine our own success and wellbeing by undermining personal goals and values. So it’s that kind of sick feeling where you had a big interview coming up and you somehow managed to oversleep and didn’t make it to the interview.  How did that happen? This was something you really wanted.

Well self-sabotage can be conscious or unconscious. So for example, when you find yourself going through the drive-through and pretending that you’re ordering food for you and your husband, quote unquote, when there is no husband, and when you promised yourself, you wouldn’t do that anymore. That’s an example of self-sabotage that’s more on the conscious level. An example of unconscious sabotage is when you in air quotes, forget a date you made, or an appointment you made with your personal trainer or with your exercise buddy, or suddenly work just becomes so busy. All of a sudden that you have to cancel. So self-sabotage can really take a toll on all areas of your life, career health, of course, relationships and more. So many of the clients that I work with in the anchor program who have food addiction, emotionally eating or binge eating can also tend to be very perfectionistic or too hard on themselves. And that also can be a form of self-sabotage. So the belief that you need to be perfect, no matter what, like you have to really grind all the time, often leaves you feeling like you’re not good enough. And that fear of making mistakes can lead to procrastination. And also self-sabotage a history of trauma though, can lead to feelings of being unsafe. And that then can make you feel like you don’t deserve to succeed or to have good things in life. So sometimes behaviors, especially those we have around food may have developed as a way to cope with overwhelming emotions or situations when you were younger, traumatic situations, even. So in point of fact, these are really adaptive behaviors because they help us adapt to these uncomfortable or even abusive situations, whether it be childhood trauma, moving to a new neighborhood, being bullied and so much more. When these behaviors though extend into our adult lives, they cause other problems such as the ones who are talking about binge-eating, obsessing about food, obsessing about your body, emotional or stress eating. Another way this happens is when you’ve suffered neglect as a child, and that can lead to low self-esteem and, and cause you to sabotage relationships or to make yourself “feel unattractive” to avoid being vulnerable or getting hurt. Sometimes being in a bigger body can feel safer for many trauma survivors.

Now self-sabotage can be part of your mindset and that, like I said, can come from trauma and from other things that we’re going to talk about, but what is a self-sabotaging mindset? Well, it includes a mindset that can be very negative, disorganized, indecisive. And it’s a mindset where you have a lot of negative self-talk. Now sometimes we can consciously or unconsciously engage in mindless distructions that keep us from reaching our goals. You know, I’m all for using distractions as a skill when you use it consciously and mindfully. But when it’s a mindful distraction that is keeping you from finishing a project at work, or you’re distracting yourself so much that you end up eating the whole bag of chips when you weren’t planning to do that, then that is a problem. So what are some mindless distractions, binge watching TV, surfing the internet. What about mindless scrolling through social media? We do that to video game obsession and also internet shopping. Now okay, I think during the quarantine, I have binge watch so many more TV shows than I ever expected to. I don’t know that they were always mindless though. Many of those shows I really enjoyed watching, but there were many times when I was just overwhelmed or tired or just couldn’t deal with things anymore. And I turned to the TV to take my mind off of it. So it’s just something to be aware of, but it’s not just what goes on in our mind. That is sabotaging. It’s also the behaviors. You know, the ones, bingeing, overeating, drinking too much overspending obsessively, thinking about food or your body, other behaviors we use to help us avoid situations, people or emotions that we’re uncomfortable with. And these behaviors also keep us stuck in self sabotage. Examples include procrastination, being late all the time, quitting when things get tough, it’s something that’s, I think is a problem with some of the younger generation that things get rough, or you don’t know something, just quit going to the next thing, being a people pleaser or lacking assertiveness. Those are all ways in which we consciously or unconsciously trying to avoid situations. People are emotions that we’re uncomfortable with. So the point is to raise awareness about what you’re doing and not to just do it mindlessly.

Obviously, it’s rational to fear true dangers in life. You know how many times you watch that scary movie on TV and the woman walks down the dark alley and you just want to say, no, don’t go there. Well, that’s a true danger. But for many people, especially those who have experienced trauma in their lives, they may feel unsafe because they’re triggered by a situation that takes them back to their trauma. When in this present moment, they truly are safe. So that’s important to recognize that sometimes you may be overeating because your trauma has been triggered and you feel unsafe because you used, you were unsafe when you were younger and you had that trauma. So you have to really bring yourself back to the present ground yourself in the present and recognize that, you know, you are safe right now. So this kind of thing can lead to commitment fears, being afraid of change or of losing control. So it’s common for self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors to come up. When we are getting close to something, we truly desire like that promotion at work or you know, even if you have been on a diet or have the bariatric weight loss surgery, and you’re gone, you know, entering into life, starting over again. And yet you find yourself self-sabotaging. But what you truly want is to be able to be healthy, to be able to meet active, to be able to stop obsessing about food. So it may be comes up when it’s something we truly desire. So when you find, find yourself, self-sabotaging, that’s something to think about that the self-sabotage wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t something we truly desire.

So for many, many people that I work with in the anchor program, the desire to be free of these unwanted behaviors and food obsessions and body hatred is a really true heartfelt desire. It often is no longer about how I look or what size I am or what the number on the scale is. It’s just the overwhelming desire to stop being controlled by your thoughts about food and your body. And that’s what makes it so much harder to accept when these sabotaging, self sabotaging behaviors keep coming up, why can’t I exceed in this one area in my life? Why do I keep doing this to myself? Those are the questions I’m often asked by my patients with binge eating, food addiction and emotional eating, and each of these many failures then deplete your confidence and make you feel bad. And what are you going to do when you feel bad? You’re going to have more behaviors to cope with the pain of failure. So I like the saying that goes, what gets rewarded, gets repeated. I’m going to repeat it. What gets rewarded gets repeated. So if self-sabotage is so bad for us, so painful, why does it get repeated? Why do we keep it? Well, I love that saying, because what I always say is we don’t keep doing something. If we’re not getting something out of it now, I’m sure this seems counterproductive, counterintuitive, sorry. And it’s also kind of productive obviously. And, and I get it. But however, if you look deeper, you may find that your behaviors do provide you with something. Maybe it’s an escape. Maybe it’s a feeling of a reward after a hard day. Maybe it’s filling a void that you have inside of yourself. Maybe it’s a reward. Maybe it’s a, a way to feel like you’re a secret rebel. To stop the behaviors it’s really important to identify the root causes and to heal that rather than focusing on, you know, the number on the scale or even on just the behaviors. It’s important to identify that root cause.

Now insecurity comes from that inner critic that we all have that maybe is the voice of your mother or your father or your grandmother, or your first boss, or the bully at school, that inner critic that tells us we’re not good enough, or that we’re never going to measure up. We all have that. It’s that little voice in the back of your mind, that constantly is challenging. You not challenging you to do better, but telling you, you can’t do better. That inner critic is a remnant from the past. And again, often the result of trauma and that will deplete your self-confidence and lead you to creating habits that have served in the past as ways to keep you from feeling certain emotions or experiencing hurt or rejection, but now are causing even more problems. Sabotage also protects that part of us, that fears, you know, having too big of a personality being too great or too powerful. And that can also feel, you know, feel thinking about that can make you feel unsafe or threatened.

So some researchers feel that self-sabotage occurs when the desire to reduce threats, exceeds the drive to reach goals. So sometimes self-sabotaging behaviors are things that were also modeled for us growing up. Maybe you had a parent with food and body image issues who constantly went on diet after diet and you then grew up and thought, well, that’s the way we deal with it. Yes. Think about that. Just think for a moment about what was for you growing up and what you then came to believe. Some of the most important conversations we have are those in our heads with ourselves, the problem is that many people think that what goes on in their heads is who they are. And that’s dangerous. My favorite saying in the anchor program is your brain is not your friend, girlfriend. But if you’ve experienced trauma, you, you may engage in a lot of that negative. Self-talk maybe thinking that it will help you whip yourself into shape. When we know from so much research now, and I’ve spoken about this in past podcast, the research shows that the more negative your self-talk, the less likely you are to engage in healthy behaviors and develop healthy habits.

So here are some ways you can begin to put an end to self-sabotage around food and body image issues. The first is start becoming aware of your emotions. Maybe you believe I was surprised to hear that studies show that only one in three people can identify what they’re feeling. That’s a third of us who are walking around, who can, who know what we’re feeling. We’re conscious of our feelings and two-thirds who are walking around numb to their feelings or unconscious about their feelings now. So when you don’t know what you’re feeling, you may just have a sense of unease or discomfort. And that leads you then to quickly numb that since with food, by pushing it down with food, without recognizing that you know what your emotions are trying to tell you something, maybe it’s telling you that you’re really pissed off with your partner and you need to speak up about that. Or you may be feeling tired, which by the way, is not the same as being hungry. Just saying,

The second thing you can do is to journal about your emotions and how they impact your eating behaviors. So when you do this in the, if you pay attention to what you journal, this will give you the evidence of how you use food. That’s super important. How you use food. Do you use it to numb, to escape, to reward yourself? All the things we’ve mentioned, I mentioned above. With this information and more emotional awareness, you can begin to find maybe other ways to fill the void or other ways to escape or reward yourself that don’t involve food.

Number three, think about those messages you were given, or that were implied as were growing up. You know, if you were neglected as a child, you may have grown up feeling like you were flawed, something was wrong with you, or you just weren’t worthy, or maybe had a critical parent who made you feel nothing was good enough unless it was perfect. That’s like my mom, you know, if you mop the floor, that’s not good enough. You need to get down with the toothbrush and scrub those corners and those crevices. So that’s the message I got. You have to work hard and be perfect. But once you realize this, you can ask yourself if you can help your younger self, let go of that unhealthy belief and find another more affirming belief to take its place.

Number four, set up structures in your life at work, in relationship, et cetera, to interrupt or avoid self-sabotage. For example, when I’m reaching for the stars in my career, and I have a big meeting coming up, I don’t just set one alarm on my phone. I set three. Well, they call them alerts. I call them alarms. I said three alerts to make sure I don’t somehow accidentally quote, unquote, forget, do the same for making sure you eat regularly, set an alarm for meals, and that will help reduce the risk of bingeing for example. Self-sabotage, doesn’t have to make you feel ashamed or guilty. It can be seen as a messenger telling you it’s time, time for healing. It can be a call to action. I hope that’s helpful

By the way, if you’re ready to answer that call to action, the call to healing, we have an anchor program starting soon, schedule a free consult by looking for the link in the show notes to see if you might be a fit for the program. Also, I want to remind you that our book sweepstakes is still going on. We’ve given away eight books so far, and we have a few more to give away. So if you haven’t done so please again, look in the show notes for the link to enter the books sweepstakes. It won’t last much longer. And the, oh, I should tell you which book, because actually, you know that I’ve written three books, right? This is for The Food Addiction Recovery Workbook. A very good book for those of you who are struggling with any kind of obsessive thoughts or body thoughts. So enter the sweepstakes to win, and we’ll either send you an ebook or mail you an actual hard copy of the book.

Please give us a review. Five stars is my hope. That’s my aspirational hope, and then share the podcast with anyone you think might benefit from it so that we can get the word out. Thanks for listening, Dr. Carolyn signing off.

I hope to learn more about self-sabotage and that you’ll take my advice and try some of the strategies, the four strategies that I talked about in the podcast. This is a, you know, a problem that as I said earlier, that affects all of us. And particularly if you’re dealing with food and body image issues, it can really undercut the progress that you are making or that you’ve made. So I think it’s worth addressing, and it is something that we address in the anchor program. So again, I want to remind you, we have a program starting soon, and it’s also something I talk about in my book. So there is the book sweepstakes ongoing for The Food Addiction Recovery Workbook. And as you know, I’ve also written The Emotional Eating Workbook and The Binge-Eating and Compulsive Overeating Workbook. So look forward to talking with you perhaps on one of my free consults. And I will see you next time on the upcoming podcast, which will be podcast number 92, when I’m going to talk about stereotypes that women have to deal with. One of which is the strong black woman syndrome, there’s also the hussy. There’s so many. So I’m going to be bringing out these stereotypes that are often slapped onto women and how we should deal with those. So I hope you’ll join me next time for podcasts episode number 92, talk to you soon.