The fear of not being enough. That’s the biggest fear that causes self-sabotage around food.
It’s an interesting dilemma, because at first glance, the struggle with overeating or binge eating makes us feel the opposite of not enough: we feel physically too much.
But at an unseen level, we might self-sabotage our efforts to lose weight because we’re subconsciously trying to dim our shine… woof. That’s heavy.
So how exactly does the fear of not being enough play into self-sabotage around food? Let’s dig further.
How to Discover Your Unique Triggers for Self-Sabotage
While the fear of not-enough-ness is one of the biggest triggers for self-sabotage, it can take on an infinite number of flavors for everyone.
For instance, someone might fear not being enough to attract a loving partner; or another person might fear not being enough for their spouse or kids.
It’s all unique to everyone, but it all tends to fall under the umbrella of not-enough-ness. But let’s stop painting this sad picture of the problem. Let’s get to the solution!
Here’s the good news: there’s a method you can use to discover your unique triggers for self-sabotage. It’s called self-inquiry, and it can be as simple or as fancy as you’d like.
Wondering what it looks like?
How Self-Inquiry Works
Self-inquiry is the process of asking yourself a question, and letting an answer come forth. But it has to take place outside of your brain.
Meaning, you can’t think your way through self-inquiry in your head. It has to happen either verbally (ideally with a therapist or coach) or physically by putting pen to paper.
Working with a therapist or coach is arguably the most powerful form of self-inquiry, because having another person present (in a safe environment) helps separate you from your own beliefs and biases.
But let’s dig into the most accessible form that you can get started with immediately: written self-inquiry.
Pen & Paper as a Path to Stopping Self-Sabotage
Allow me to share my own personal example of how written self-inquiry can reveal our unique blocks for self-sabotage.
Below you’ll find an entry from my personal diary in November 2017. This was in my early stages of digging into the psychology of eating.
To quickly set the stage: Right before this journal entry, I was craving something sweet after dinner.
I would often get frustrated by the craving to eat past fullness — and of course I wanted to blame it all on sugar and junk food. But!
At that moment in time, I was starting to embrace the idea that our issues with food are more psychological than biological. And so I decided to give self-inquiry a whirl.
Here’s what I wrote:
I just ate a good dinner. Now I want oatmeal. Why?
Because I want something sweet. Why?
And the extra calories too. Why?
Because I want to have energy tomorrow for the gym. Why?
Because if I go in tired, I could look like a fool, and that’s bad. Why?
Because I’d ruin the image I’m trying to create of being a badass woman. Why?
Because I want to be admired and accepted.
Wow. Holy crap. Can’t believe that’s connected…
Before I did that journal exercise, I was convinced that my desire for sweets was just about sugar…
But something breathtaking happens when you put pen to paper. Instead of getting frustrated with “sugar addiction” I was able to make the connection back to life.
It was never about the sugar or the food.
I was about my fear of not being enough at the gym. Which was also linked to my insecurities about my body. Which was also linked to general feelings of not-enough-ness.
Making Food a Spiritual Practice
Of course, I wasn’t aware of any of this.
Before I put pen to paper, I just thought my body was broken and that my cravings were beyond my control.
By asking myself why over and over, I was able to dig deeper than the surface level of food and discover a subconscious belief that I didn’t even know existed.
It’s not like I was sitting there thinking to myself, “Man I really want some oatmeal so that I can kick a$$ at the gym tomorrow because I feel insecure about my body.” Nope. I was only aware of the desire to have something sweet — that’s it.
And that’s why I’ve fallen in love with self-inquiry. It’s almost like using your relationship with food as a spiritual practice.
(By the way, if you’re new around here, this is the home of Psycho-Spiritual Wellness, and this stuff is my jam.)
Using Self-Inquiry to Stop Self-Sabotage
I’m pretty sure that, if we all attempted to trace our desires to eat past fullness far enough, we’d arrive at some variation of not-enough-ness.
And while that sounds super depressing (again, woof), the good news is that we have tools to dig ourselves out of the rut! Self-inquiry!
The next time you find yourself craving food when you’re full, stop and grab and pen and paper. Then, start jotting down the reason why you might want food, and keep asking why.
Keep digging until you arrive at an answer that makes you brain go, woah.
And if you want more structure, I actually made a workbook to help get you started. It’s called Why We Do the Things We Do, and it contains juicy, cherry-picked prompts to help you discover your unique reasons for self-sabotage around food.
If this post made the gears in your head start to churn, I hope you’ll get a copy of the workbook. (And if you already have a copy, I hope this inspires you to crack it open.)
Understanding Self-Sabotage Around Food
To wrap things up, self-sabotage around food can usually be traced back to the fear of not being enough. However, it can take on many different flavors for everyone, and that’s what self-inquiry is for.
By separating your thoughts onto paper, you can gain insight into your subconscious reasons for self-sabotage. Or as I like to say: the subconscious reasons why we do the things we do.
Because the food-thing was never about the food (or the sugar!) — it was always about our relationship with life and the fear of not being enough.
Hopefully, by doing this self-discovery work, you can break free from that fear and work towards a better relationship with food.
Wow – I’ve been working on eating when I’m hungry for two years now. I’ve gotten the point where I eat whenever I want and I don’t have guilt about food, but I am CONSTANTLY full because of this right here.
I sat down to journal just once and I am crying. Never would I have thought that I was turning to food to avoid restlessness and fear of failure. Like you said – who would have thought that was connected?
Thanks for what you do! <3<3<3
Kari Dahlgren says
Woo hoo!! You are awesome Hailey! You sat down and did the work. That must not have been easy, and I am celebrating you for it!! 🙂 xoxo
Hi. For the past 15 years I have been on a high nutrient Whole Foods plant based diet due to health reasons. But, I keep self sabotaging with the foods that hurt me most. I have gone weeks, months, & sometimes years without them~until I don’t. WHY??? Why do I keep hurting myself? Physical pain~arthritis, joint pain, etc. I have binged/over eaten my whole life & I eat in secret. Funny thing is I’m only 115lbs at 5’4”. There are certain foods that cause me physical pain~how do I stop the madness?
Kari Dahlgren says
Hi Mindy! First of all, you are tough for going through what you are going through. So many other readers can relate, I’m sure! And second of all, this is the million dollar question! It’s different for everyone. I recommend my workbook, “Why We Do the Things We Do” — it was designed to answer that exact question.