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How to Break the Self-Sabotage Cycle: The Power of a Friendly Intervention and Conscious Journaling

Updated: 6 days ago

With a consistent workout routine and abs in tow, I fully thought I had conquered my habit of leaning on food to process and handle my emotions. I was on top of the world and feeling fantastic, my surprise, I wasn't so invincible. The journey of my relationship with my body wasn't at the finish line yet, it had more lessons to teach me.

Let me back up.

If you're like me and you'd rather listen to the blog, here ya go love!

I've had an up and down, and up and wayyyyy down relationship with my body from as early as I can remember. I look at pictures from when I was seven years old in a swimsuit and remember feeling uncomfortable and hearing the thoughts in my mind that "I had big legs". I still see that sweet girl in the green two piece and I wish I could go back and tell her she was perfect.

Over the years I kept this obsession with my body mostly at bay, I always felt like the ugly duckling of my friend groups, but I still managed to stay within a healthy range of weight even though I was never as fit or healthy as I wanted to be. It wasn't until I moved from Canada to Houston after getting a job out of college as a petroleum engineer that it really caught up with me. I was so totally out of alignment, and the first time I was really ever alone with myself and my thoughts. I didn't have school to focus on or a boyfriend or many friends when I first got there, I didn't have anything. It was just me and money - at the time that was my only focus. It drove every decision I made. If you ask people to describe me from that point in my life they’d likely say I was “money hungry”.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was looking to external things to fulfill what I craved deep down - just to be me and to follow my passions in life. I numbed these feelings the way I knew best: with food and alcohol. I was a weekend warrior at its finest and it showed. Within 2 years of living in Houston I had gained 60 pounds (and that wasn't just because the portion sizes are bigger and the food is delicious). It was because food was the only thing that made me feel better. I used to swing up to 20 pounds in one month from the crash diets and extreme binges that followed them. I was a slave to my mind and the scale and the obsession with my body: what I allowed myself to eat or not eat, what workouts I should do for the fastest transformation, you name it, I tried it!

Until one day when my mom asked me: “Melanie, are you happy?”. It was in that exact moment that I realized and simultaneously admitted that I wasn’t. I had a problem. I was a binge eater, which I later found out is actually a type of eating disorder. I was using blonde hair and red lips to try and mask the fact that I had zero confidence and was looking to society's version of confident to make it look to the world like I had it all together. But internally, I felt helpless. Defeated. Confused. I got the 6-figure job, I moved to a big city, I got everything I thought would bring me happiness but it just made me feel more empty inside. If the things that I had spent my whole life sacrificing myself for didn't bring me joy, what would?

I went to a therapist within weeks of that conversation and started to explore all of this. I discovered that much of my eating habits were related to emotion suppressing, not just from the corporate America job, but from a lifetime of the shit. You know. The stuff that immediately comes to mind when you think of childhood wounds. All of it. Stuffed so neatly under a carpet, but the carpet wasn’t big enough anymore and the food helped me to silence them.

As I began to explore myself and my triggers and the ways I processed emotions, I really started to get to know me. I read a book called Intuitive Eating*, and it was the first time I ever tapped into my intuition. I started to learn how to trust what my body was telling me and get in touch with hunger and when to eat and when not to eat. I had completely gotten out of touch with that over the years when I followed arbitrary diets with rules that never considered my hunger levels or what was right for my body. Not to mention the complete override of fullness I would partake in when I would go crazy and eat everything in sight knowing I was getting ready to restrict myself soon. Reflecting back on it, this was the first domino in a series of dominos that got me to the place where I am today: sure of who I am, aware of my own inner workings, my ticks, and the things that work for me. I know how to address the different past versions of me and give them an opportunity to heal. I’ve got a toolkit of healing modalities, tips and tricks I use depending on the situation. I've invested tens of thousands of dollars in coaching and therapy to learn all of this. You could say I'm equipped!

So with all this awareness you might be surprised to hear that I fell back into the pesky pattern of self-sabotage and emotional eating for 9 months this past year. Yeah. I was shocked too. My anxiety for the future, paired with triggers that went unresolved was too much to manage, I subconsciously turned to the one friend who never let me down in the moment: food.

I don’t own a scale anymore so I don’t know how much weight I gained but let’s just say the summer jean shorts didn’t go past the thighs this year! I wore flowy pants and dresses to hide the fact that my suppressed emotions were literally stuck on my body.

Insert second hard conversation from someone from someone who cares about me. A friend called me out. She said: "Melanie, you don’t wear cute clothes anymore. What's going on?". I knew what she meant. It was in that moment when she “saw” me that I realized I wasn’t fooling anyone and I couldn’t fool myself any longer. I fell into a spiral and it was time to admit it, accept where I was and move towards that aligned healthy place I knew felt so good.

Lucky for me, the cycle wasn’t as dramatic as it used to be in the past with the crazy highs and lows. It was moreso a steady and slow climb because I didn't find all my comfort in food, I had equipped myself with practices that I did lean on a bit: I still journaled, processed with my life coach and had friendships to lean on. All of these things made this cycle much less extreme than in the past when I had zero coping mechanisms in place.

That friend gave me a life vest, sort of like when my mom asked me if I was happy. She was my accountability partner and helped me to get back into the groove for the first month or so. I am so thankful for that conversation and those walks and workouts that followed, they gave me so much more than she probably knows. It got me past that initial point of friction when it's so hard to get the ball rolling. It got me to a place where I had enough energy and internal strength to actually face and understand what was going on.

Once my mind was clear and I was moving in the right direction physically and feeling much more confident and energized from my changed habits, I had the strength to unpack and understand what got me into that cycle to begin with. This is where journaling and my tried and true 4-part conscious journaling framework comes in. It always comes after I have caught myself in a pattern. First, I created the intention to shift into the healthy version of me again, and the second step was creating awareness and understanding what got me there and how to get myself back on the aligned path. I ask myself questions like:

  • What is the pattern I fell into? Why?

  • What was I avoiding?

  • What was I trying to sweep under the figurative rug?

  • What triggered this?

  • Is there some more healing I need to do?

  • Is there something I need to release?

  • What can I do in the future to catch myself more quickly?

  • How can I feel safe in my body to be the fittest version of me?

I'll spare you the details, but a lot of it had to do with the fear of making a change I knew I needed to make, paired with a situation that made me feel very unsafe in my body and the added weight made me feel less vulnerable. After understanding what happened and what I needed to shift, I go to step 3 and integrate my learnings. So that looks like: creating internal safety in new ways that don't involve me gaining weight (ie. setting better boundaries), addressing the fear of change I have been avoiding and taking slow steps towards the change that don't disrupt my nervous system, and setting a reminder to check in with myself in a month's time to make sure I'm still moving in the right direction. I'll write an update blog for step 4 which is reflection where I set a date with myself and truly check in to see how things are going and if any additional healing or processing needs to happen or recognize if I've fallen into old patterns. After doing this for years, it is very helpful to have a daily morning journaling practice to lean on to do this internal work. It's time that is always carved out for me to devote to myself. This is when I have my personal 'dates'.

Fast forward 3 months later and I am working out consistently, eating foods that make my body feel great (because I want to), complete in understanding what got me in that funk, with a plan to catch myself in the future. Now I am focusing on other areas of my life and literally feeling fantastic! The energy I was spending avoiding and numbing has been repurposed to bring you this blog ironically!

I share this story with you because journaling is such an incredible tool that can help you to understand yourself and get out of patterns that you don't want to play a part in anymore. It has helped me to become self-reliant, self aware, and allowed me to process my emotions in a safe way. You don't need to stay a prisoner to your mind and your cycles, you have the power to break them with a bit of intentionality and a little courage to face the things you've been unwilling to face. I promise you, having done this work on myself for years, it is so totally worth it!

Until the next revelation love,

Mel, The Conscious Journaler

P/s: If you want to get started on your journey to cultivating a journaling practice that allows you to heal, break non-supportive patterns, and replace them with new ones so you can clear your mind to focus on the things your soul is calling you to do - check out the link below for my free training!

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