A cycle I repeat in my life is to be disciplined for a time, to make progress, and then to implode spectacularly and digress. Self-sabotage isn’t unavoidable, but I sure act like it is when it happens, as though it were an inevitable, long-awaited invader that I am helpless to repel. I see it now as a cycle of depression and fear, so I’ve been working to uncover the roots of it whenever I see myself running headlong into a tub of ice cream or completely avoiding writing.
I wish it were a simple fix, but I find that my self-sabotage roots are different for each problem. When I skip writing for long periods of time, it’s generally because I’m afraid to fail. No one will read what I work on, and that will prove I’m not a good writer, so if I just don’t do it, no one will need to know how bad I am. (I don’t really believe this to be truth, but it is a very real fear that threatens my focus every day if I let it.)
I’m working on improving my health and losing weight, and that is consistently the worst area of self-sabotage for me in the last ten years. My tendency is to eat my feelings. My current weight is proof of that bad mental habit. I’ve worked really hard to stop the stress eating, and I’ve mostly curbed it with better coping tools. Once in a while I’ll turn to chocolate for comfort, but it’s a rare thing now. What’s less rare is just randomly eating a metric ton of crap or eating nothing but sweets for days at a time. I have no reason or desire to eat the junk, but I struggle to stop it.
The more I dig up the roots of this particular self-sabotage issue, the more I uncover grief pain that still lurks under the surface.
All those years of dealing with miscarriage after miscarriage without the healthiest coping tools led me to put on a lot of extra weight. That mental weight is very physically visible in my body weight. Every time I’ve worked to lose weight, I end up putting it right back on, even when I’m mentally healthy.
It finally hit me that I’ve carried the weight like a badge of honor and a memorial of all that loss instead finding a better way to memorialize the pain. The truth is, it hurts to deal with the enormity of my grief, still, years later and so many miles down the road from the intensity of surviving the immediate experience of it. Honestly, it hurts even more to admit it here because it’s embarrassing to say out loud. I haven’t been able to maintain weight loss because I might forget by angel babies. It sounds a little ridiculous, but it’s the biggest root I keep stumbling over when I look at the problem closely.
I love that the way I hear from God most often is to hear echoes of what I’m hearing in my personal Bible study and prayer everywhere. It seems like whatever message I’m picking up is suddenly the sermon topic, the theme of every book I read or podcast I listen to, the eventual topic of conversations with family and friends… I just know now that when I hear the same thought from multiple directions, that’s what God needs me to hear.
As I dug and dug to figure out why I kept eating junk despite my best plans to eat well and exercise, God kept putting Philippians 1:21 in front of me. When I finally saw what my stumbling block was, I realized that I am completely willing to die for Christ. No questions, no doubts, only joy at the thought of seeing my angel babies and having all my tears wiped away. But Philippians 1:21 says, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
If living is Christ, then I can have at least some of my tears wiped away here on earth. If living is Christ, then I can live in that joy now without waiting for heaven. If living is Christ, then I must be a better example of the discipline he demands of me to be my best and offer my best to serve him well.
In short, I have to focus on life because death is not my calling.
We are called to abundant life, and I haven’t been living every area of my life as though to live is Christ. I have to change my thinking every day and fill in the blank, “to live is ___.” My previous answer obviously hasn’t been Christ when it comes to diet and exercise because I’ve been living in the past instead of in the grace and life of Christ.
It’s not going to be an easy emotional hurdle to clear, but at least now I’m working on the right problem. I can lose weight and not feel guilt or shame about my pregnancy losses. I can eat like a regular person rather than hiding the pain with bad food choices. I can live in Christ in this space, too, and I can continue to heal without fear of forgetting my grief. I just need to focus on new and healthy ways to acknowledge it.