It’s time to talk about something that I’ve named the “Self Sabotage Cha-Cha.”
The “Self Sabotage Cha-Cha” is when we get into a cycle with healthy choices where we’re taking one step forward and then two steps right backward.
I call it a “cha-cha” because it feels a bit like you’re dancing. You’re going back and forth and never really getting anywhere.
Maybe you do really well all day and then binge on ice cream at night. Or you do really well all week and then eat all the things when you go to a restaurant or party with your friends or family on the weekend.
It’s always one step forward, two steps back.
This dance is something that used to be a constant in my life. And it’s something that most of my students and community members are all too familiar with. It’s something that many of us have been doing for decades and I know exactly how frustrating it can be.
Honestly, it’s a struggle that I get asked about ALL the time when people find out what I do for a living (teach people how to reprogram and rewire their old habits around food).
I’m not going to get into all the neuroscience and food psychology behind it, I go deep into that in my other programs, but I want to give you a quick insight – a different way of approaching this – that’s going to help you make progress with ending your own Self Sabotage Cha-Cha and getting off that dance floor for good!.
Stop the Judgement Spiral
I want to start by asking you, what do we all do immediately when we find ourself in the middle of, or immediately following self-sabotaging behavior?
We go into judgement, right?
We start beating ourselves up thinking things like, ‘Why did I do that?’ and ‘Why can’t I have any willpower?’ and ‘I’m never going to be able to stay on track’.
This is the judgment spiral and you have to stop it.
First of all, it just feels awful to be beating yourself up all the time. Yet, many of us have been doing it for so long that it’s like second nature. You might not even really be aware that you’re doing it.
Second, judgment actually makes things worse. It increases the likelihood that you are going to fall even farther off the wagon, make even worse choices and take even longer to get back on track.
Again, I won’t get into all the neuroscience behind this, but suffice it to say that when you beat yourself up your brain is immediately wired to go to food to get away from that discomfort.
It’s a reflex, just like pulling your hand away from a hot stove. Something feels awful and your brain is wired to move away from that and search for something that feels better (aka food).
And for most of us the food that makes us feel better is not kale and apples, but probably sugar or some form of processed carbohydrates. Am I right?
Remember That It’s Simple Brain Wiring
So, instead, I want you to start thinking about this in a different way. When you start to feel yourself slipping, maybe you’re knee-deep in a bowl of ice cream, or maybe you’re staring at the restaurant menu and feeling like you’re just about to make a not-so-healthy choice, instead of judging yourself or beating yourself up, I want you to remind yourself that this craving has nothing to do with willpower or strength of character.
This is simple brain wiring. That’s all that’s going on, okay?
What’s happening when you’re having those cravings or you’re feeling pulled by those old behaviors. It’s simply your brain is just wanting to go to the familiar to feel better.
You’ve practiced turning to food when you have uncomfortable feelings (stress, fatigue, boredom, overwhelm, etc.) for most of your life so you’ve gotten really good at it!
You’ve laid down a very deep network of neural pathways in your brain around those old behaviors and they feel very familiar. And for your brain familiar is wonderful because familiar equals safe.
That’s what your brain knows – things that are familiar are safe.
It’s not weakness; it’s just brain wiring.
So I want you to remember the term “brain wiring.” When you feel those old urges, instead of judgment, catch yourself and think: ‘This is just brain wiring. That’s all. This isn’t that I’m weak. It isn’t that I’m never going to reach my goals. This is just brain wiring.’
Say it today when you have a craving or an urge. ‘This is just brain wiring.’
And now that you know that it’s just brain wiring, you need to change your goal.
Disrupt the Habit Package
Why do we need to change our goal?
Well, usually our goal is just NOT doing the behavior: Don’t eat the ice cream. Don’t order the nachos. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. That’s the goal.
And how well does that work typically? Not very well, right?
That’s because it’s the wrong goal.
Instead, remember, it’s just brain wiring so all you have to do is a short circuit that brain wiring a little bit.
It’s just like in the movies when someone’s disarming a bomb. You know, the expert arrives on the scene and everybody watches intently as they open up the panel. There are all sorts of wires in there and they have to clip the red wire but not touch the yellow one or something like that.
The bomb expert doesn’t need to disassemble the entire bomb. They just need to short circuit that wiring enough to defuse it. They calmly clip just a few of those wires and they save the day – crisis averted.
That’s all you need to do too; clip a few wires. And the way you do that is by changing the old familiar habit just a little bit.
Maybe your habit is doing really well all day and then bingeing on ice cream at night on the couch in front of the TV. Start by looking at the whole habit. It’s not just the ice cream. You probably always sit in the same place when you’re watching the TV at about the same time of day. You probably have the same kind of spoon, sit the same kind of way, etc..
This is what I call a “habit package.”
And we just need to disrupt that package a little bit. So have the ice cream but have it in a mug with a fork. And maybe have a cup of peppermint tea with it while you’re watching TV.
You don’t need to get rid of the whole thing. Obviously that is the ultimate goal but that’s not where you start. Just like the bomb expert doesn’t start by attempting to disassemble the entire bomb – it’s going to explode before they can do all that.
And that’s what happens with your cravings.
You just need to cut a couple of those wires by changing up the habit package.
So again, maybe it’s ice cream in a mug with a fork and a cup of tea, or maybe it’s ice cream on a plate while you’re doing a jigsaw puzzle in the living room. But start by still allowing yourself to have the ice cream because when you try to take it all away at once and just go cold turkey, it’s too much for your brain and you’re going to end up back in the Self-Sabotage Cha-Cha.
By disrupting the habit package just a little you can start to reprogram and rewire those old patterns and habits. Goodbye Self-Sabotage Cha-Cha.
As you go about your day, whenever cravings come or even when you’ve found yourself having already made a not so great choice, instead of slipping into judgment, I want you to think: ‘Okay, this is just brain wiring. That’s all this is. How can I disrupt this wiring just a little bit? How can I clip just one or two wires?’.
Start to break up that old wiring – that’s the path that’s ultimately going to take you to freedom and really creating different habits for yourself over time.
Hopefully, this is helpful and I would love to hear how you’re using these tools to say goodbye to the Self-Sabotage Cha Cha for good!