Do you use food as comfort too? It’s such a common form of self-sabotage for women! Today I’m sharing a mindset coaching conversation I had with Angela, a member of the Christian Mindset Makeover, about her struggle with binge eating for comfort at night.
Can’t wait for you to hear Angela’s story and how we help her discover the root thought behind her self-sabotaging behaviors. If you struggle with using food for comfort, you’ll love these practical ways to work through self-sabotaging behaviors. You are not alone and it is possible to break free from the self-sabotage cycle!
WHAT YOU'LL LEARN:
- [4:30] Angela’s story: Using food as comfort
- [6:38] The root of self-sabotage in the brain
- [9:24] Recognizing triggers for self-sabotaging behavior
- [10:54] How mindset coaching can get to the root of self-sabotage
- [14:01] Creating new habits to heal self-sabotage without condemnation
- [17:22] How to meet our deepest needs in a healthier way and overcome self-sabotage
- [20:34] Inviting the Holy Spirit for help in overcoming self-sabotage
- [21:29] Takeaways about self-sabotage
- [25:30] Getting to the root of self-sabotage with the Christian Mindset Makeover™
[4:30] Angela’s story: Using food as comfort
Angela came to me during a mindset coaching call and shared that the brain priming exercises had been helping her. When it came to boundaries with using food as comfort, however, Angela was struggling. She would much rather focus on other things and other people, and she was not prioritizing self care.
In the last two years, Angela shared that she had gained a lot of weight. She would prepare healthy food during the day, but at night she would seek out things to eat and it wouldn’t be because she was hungry. She noticed a pattern of behavior where her boundaries collapsed at night, and she no longer felt armed with the armor of God. She wanted to know what she could do to strengthen those boundaries and prevent her self-sabotaging behaviors.
Angela also has stage 4 cancer, and she is taking an effective but expensive medication because of that. The cost is stressful, in addition to the disease itself. She knew eating healthy was the best thing she could do to care for herself, and she wanted some advice on how to stop using food as comfort.
[6:38] The root of self-sabotage in the brain
First, we talked about what happens in the brain when we get into these self-sabotaging patterns. The situation Angela described is very normal, and self-sabotage often has its roots in pain or fear. The brain is trying to keep us safe and it is protecting us. On a subconscious level, it is moving us toward something that will bring pleasure, almost like a steam release valve.
Our logical mind tells us that eating healthy food is good for us. Working out is good for us. When we use food as comfort, the subconscious mind is overriding our logic and telling us that we need comfort or pleasure to decrease our stress. The prefrontal cortex, or the logical mind, is literally shut off. We cannot think logically, so we go into a primal mode and we eat a lot of food, or do whatever else will bring us comfort. Eventually we come out of this fog and realize we have done this thing again, that we didn’t really want to do in the first place.
The brain likes repetition and habit, so it sets these patterns so that our bodies expect certain things at certain times of the day. When we use food as comfort, the brain may be craving sugar, for example. These patterns lead to self-sabotaging behaviors. Boundaries help us to build up our defenses so that we are less likely to get into those patterns. Getting ourselves away from self-sabotaging patterns takes some ammunition, I would say.
[9:24] Recognizing triggers for self-sabotaging behavior
Angela mentioned that she would primarily use food as comfort at night. She would feel badly about it after, but she had learned that being mad at herself was not going to help her break this pattern. She was engaging in what she called the ‘pain and shame’ cycle. The shame would lead to more pain, and then she would engage in more self-sabotage.
First, it is important to notice the triggers for self-sabotaging behavior. In Angela’s case, she was noticing that at certain times of night, when she had something stressful going on, she tended to use food as comfort. It made sense that she was feeling stressed and triggered, as she was working through some very serious health and financial concerns. She also shared that she had been emotionally abused during her thirty-year marriage, and she had turned to food then, as well as during her childhood. She had a long history of using food as comfort.
[10:54] How mindset coaching can get to the root of self-sabotage
A lot of people struggle with self-sabotage, and it needs to be addressed. We talk about brain priming first, because it helps to go underneath and find the pain that is causing the self-sabotage at a deeper level. We don’t necessarily have to repeat the brain priming again and again, unless we feel like it really helps us to snap out of a cycle of self-sabotage. These patterns have been coping mechanisms, often for many years. Helping to remedy some of that deeper pain is necessary, but help with in-the-moment behavior is key as well. We need to re-think our responses to triggers.
We use an acronym called TACOS to work through some of these patterns. First, we have to identify the TRIGGERS. The time of day or specific cravings can trigger these self-sabotaging behaviors. Then, we have to ACKNOWLEDGE why it makes sense that we are feeling this way. We want comfort, or we want pain, frustration, or exhaustion to end. After that, we have to CONSIDER what is true about the situation. Will eating this food really help? How will it not help the situation? Start heading off the situation before it begins, because we will not be in our most logical mind at the moment.
[14:01] Creating new habits to heal self-sabotage without condemnation
It takes practice and time to build different habits. During this mindset coaching conversation with Angela, I shared that in the last year I had also gotten to a point where I was eating something sweet every night. I didn’t like that something in my life controlled me, and I had good reason to stress, but I had to think about whether or not I was handling the stress in the way that God would want me to. Angela and I agreed that food could become an idol, and it may release some tension in the moment but there are ways to begin to head off this self-sabotaging behavior.
For me, I have completely avoided sugar. If I have even a little bit, the craving starts to build and build. Learning to figure out, before it happens, why the feelings are there and understanding the remedy that we are trying to provide ourselves is all so critical. We don’t have to make an instant change to doing all the right things, but we need to give ourselves the space and grace to understand ourselves better. We can start with little victories, and continue to use brain priming to build our new soundtracks.
Angela agreed that this mindset approach was logical and resonated with her, and she invited the Holy Spirit in to give her wisdom and discernment. She was learning to look with interest, instead of with condemnation, at herself and her behaviors. She felt like she was moving in that direction, and she had gotten rid of the sugar in her house. She was having a 100 calorie frozen yogurt bar at night, but she still felt like it was akin to having an affair at night. She could count on one hand the number of times she had not used food as comfort at night in the last month, and she felt it was a victory and felt better and more empowered when she did not do that.
[17:22] How to meet our deepest needs in a healthier way and overcome self-sabotage
I asked Angela what she was thinking in those moments when she was about to indulge in a treat. She said that her husband goes to bed early, so once he is in bed it is her alone time to watch a TV show that she likes. It’s a little date or appointment that she has.
Angela also noticed that it was less about the type of food, and more about the indulgence itself. She would make xylitol candy, which is sugar-free and tastes good, but then she would overindulge on that. In our discussion, we decided that she was feeling in need of emotional support, and using food as comfort provided that.
It was understandable why she needed this support, and it’s not bad to want it. The question is, how can she get that emotional support in a different way? It may not be at that moment. It might be at another point during the day. What needed to happen, however, is that we needed to find another source of emotional support for Angela while also distracting from her nighttime pattern in the meantime. Distraction may work at times, but if we aren’t feeling filled up then we will go back to old habits that meet our needs.
We talked about some ways that Angela could satisfy her need for emotional support, and I wanted her to think about what she truly meant by this kind of support. Did she need to feel heard? Loved? Comforted? Thinking about all parts of ourselves, we need to think about what we need and how we can get it.
Angela came up with a great idea to create a new nighttime ritual for herself. She could put on her favorite hand lotion, use some essential oils, dim the lights, and have a candle. Part of the process here is honoring our needs, experimenting with different ways to achieve them, and giving ourselves grace to understand what is happening.
[20:34] Inviting the Holy Spirit for help in overcoming self-sabotage
As Angela mentioned, it is also important to recognize that we need the Holy Spirit’s help as we overcome self-sabotage. We need God’s help, and He is the one who can help us redirect and give us ideas and the grace to love ourselves through this time. She shared that she had already asked the Holy Spirit to help her and she was getting some ideas already. I think another part involving the Holy Spirit would be to ask what it is that we are really needing. If we aren’t sure, we can ask God to show us what we need. Can we put a name or an emotion to it? It might be just that touch from God that we need. Letting God continue to speak to us and reveal to us what that might be, and having the openness to experiment with it, can be so helpful.
[21:29] Takeaways about self-sabotage
Can you relate to what Angela was saying? Do you struggle with food? Maybe it’s not food for you. Maybe it’s sitting down and having to watch something every night, just to veg out. Maybe it’s feeling the need to check everything off your list in order to feel like you had a good day. Maybe you have to have time alone to scroll on your phone. For some of us it could be a need to purchase things, or even viewing pornography. What are the self-sabotaging behaviors that you are noticing?
I wanted to share a couple of takeaways from the mindset coaching conversation with Angela, just to boil down what we talked about and how we can apply this to our own struggles with self-sabotage.
First, discovering the source of the pain is so important. We need to know what is causing the need for comfort or pleasure. We need to understand the issue, and it goes beyond “I’m stressed” or “I’m busy”. What are the specific things that are causing us to feel that way, and what exactly do we need? With Angela, we went beyond feeling tired or stressed and dug into her need for emotional support. If we can boil it down to those core questions around our identity of love, feeling enough, feeling heard, feeling safe, feeling protected, and feeling like we belong. Those are core human needs. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, any of those needs could be things that we are trying to fulfill through these self-sabotaging behaviors.
So we need to think about the source of the pain, what we need, and what healthy coping mechanisms we can use when we encounter those situations. We probably won’t be able to do this at the moment because it involves our logical mind. After the fact, however, we can brainstorm and think through some coping strategies that are healthier.
We can also consider why we need to change this behavior, why it is hurting us, and how making these changes will help us. Angela and I did not talk about creating a why during that conversation, but it is definitely an important part of this. Knowing our why can fuel us toward different decisions. Willpower is one thing, but building up ammunition through knowing what we need to do is another.
Accountability can also be a huge part of preventing self-sabotage. If it’s a food issue, it is of course helpful to have only healthy choices available in the house. You can also lean on someone else to be an accountability partner for you and help you as you create these new patterns. The hardest part is getting the pattern going, until our brains form new patterns and repeat those rather than the old habits.
Once the new pattern is established and we can get the ball rolling, amazing things can happen. I always think of it like a pendulum. It takes a ton of effort to get that pendulum moving, at first. Once it’s going, it just moves on momentum. That is the power of habit and the power of creating something different for our brains. Self-sabotaging behavior can feel so easy once it has been created, so we need to repeat new habits to crowd those out over time.
[25:30] Getting to the root of self-sabotage with the Christian Mindset Makeover™
I’m grateful for Angela sharing today’s conversation to give us insight into this whole process. I want to help you get to the root causes of your own self-sabotage, and we have to go beyond identifying what we need. That is what we do in the Christian Mindset Makeover™. We get to the root of what has gone on and why we are having these patterns. We also give you very specific neurologically based tools to help you literally rewire your mind from the inside out that also honors this command that God gives us to take care of our minds and to let our minds be in line with what Christ has for us. Brain priming is a very valuable tool that we use, but we also talk about a lot of other things. As Angela alluded to during our conversation, we talk about setting up boundaries. We discuss boundary builders and boundary breakers. We talk about hard-wiring in happiness and building other factors that affect our moods.
I want to be able to give you all of those resources, and that is why I put this together in the Christian Mindset Makeover™. It’s impossible to talk about all of that here and lead you in those discussions in the podcast. This is a very powerful course that not only has the content, but it also has the opportunity to work one-on-one with me. If this is something that is resonating with you, you can go to christianmindsetmakeover.com to learn more and sign up for the Makeover. I would love to have you in the group!
I look forward to sharing more next week with you, as we continue this series on the big issues women struggle with in terms of renewing our minds.
OTHER PODCAST EPISODES ON SELF-SABOTAGING BEHAVIORS:
- Ep 7: Mindset Matters: Managing Your Inner Critic
- Ep 22: Mindset Matters: How to Change Your Perspective & Change Your Life
- Ep 134: 6 Self-Sabotaging Behaviors That Keep You Stuck in Toxic Thinking
- Ep 138: 10 Bible Verses on Managing Emotions That Every Christian Needs to Know
- Ep 144: Creating New Mindsets for Fresh Starts + New Beginnings in the New Year
- Ep 156: #1 Mindset Question: Self-Sabotage: How Do I Stop Doing What I Don’t Want to Do?
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