394-How I Coach Self-Sabotage

by | Jun 10, 2024

How I coach self-sabotage


How I Coach Self-Sabotage: A Fresh Perspective on Personal Growth

Are you tired of feeling stuck, despite your best efforts to move forward? You’re not alone. As a non-diet nutritionist and certified coach with a Ph.D. in diet culture (yes, you read that right!), I’ve spent years unraveling the mystery of self-sabotage.

In this podcast episode, I’ll share my unique approach to coaching self-sabotage, helping you break free from old patterns and create lasting change.

Redefining Self-Sabotage: It’s Not What You Think

Self-sabotage is commonly defined as actions (or inactions) that prevent us from achieving our goals. But here’s where my perspective diverges from the norm.

Self-Sabotage: A Coping Mechanism, Not a Character Flaw

The internet often labels self-sabotage as a weakness, a lack of discipline, or insufficient willpower. I disagree. My years of experience and study in psychology reveal a different truth: people self-sabotage because they don’t feel safe.

This safety issue can be emotional, mental, or physical, operating on both conscious and unconscious levels. It’s not about your worth or intelligence; it’s about protection.

The Hidden Forces Behind Self-Sabotage

Unconscious Triggers: Past Traumas and Family Dynamics

Unconscious reasons for self-sabotage often trace back to our past. Consider my own experience: being publicly weighed at Weight Watchers at age 12. That’s not just embarrassing; it’s traumatic.

Other triggers can include family upbringing, bullying experiences, or deeply ingrained belief systems.

Conscious Choices: Creating Safety in Uncomfortable Situations

Sometimes, we’re fully aware of why we’re self-sabotaging. Years ago, I avoided my CrossFit gym because I knew what awaited me: yelling coaches and judgmental partners. My “self-sabotage” was a conscious choice to avoid rejection and stress.

The Diet Culture Connection: When Your Body Feels Threatened

Diet culture is a prime example of how self-sabotage serves as a safety mechanism. When we restrict food, our body interprets it as a threat. “Danger! We’re starving!” it screams.

Our innate fight-or-flight response kicks in, overriding willpower. That’s why diets don’t work—they try to bypass our most basic survival instincts.

My Approach: Cognitive Behavior Coaching

While traditional health coaching relies on accountability and discipline, I use cognitive behavior coaching, a science-based method that truly understands human behavior.

Step 1: Reframe Self-Sabotage

We start by redefining self-sabotage as a smart coping mechanism. You’re not broken; you’re trying to feel safe. Actions like procrastination or perfectionism are neutral—they say nothing about your worth.

Step 2: Investigate Root Causes

Next, we dig into why you’re behaving this way. I ask clients to write down all their thoughts about a specific goal, like exercise. What have you learned about it? How does it make you feel?

Often, we uncover feelings of anxiety, depression, or shame—the real culprits behind self-sabotage.

Step 3: Process Emotions

The hardest part? Sitting with these emotions. Our society offers endless distractions—phones, Netflix—to avoid feelings. But processing emotions is key to accessing safety.

Step 4: Choose New Thoughts

Here’s a game-changer: you can choose what you think. When I learned this, it was a “holy shit” moment. Those unsafe thoughts leading to self-sabotage? You can change them.

Step 5: Take Small Steps

Finally, we use techniques like “minimum baseline” to reintroduce feared activities in small bites. If exercise feels unsafe, it might take months to feel comfortable at a gym again—and that’s okay.

Self-Sabotage: Your Body’s Wisdom

I believe self-sabotage is your body’s innate wisdom signaling a need for change. It’s urging you to either leave an unsafe situation or transform your thoughts about it.

Consider my journey with fatphobia. As a fat woman, I can’t escape it—unless I diet again, which I tried for 25 years. No thanks! So, I’m changing my thoughts, as I shared in my recent podcast episode.

Be Patient, Be Kind

Changing self-sabotage behavior takes time, especially if you’ve been battling diet culture. If you’re cycling on and off a behavior, you’re likely not addressing self-sabotage safely.

But there’s hope. By reframing self-sabotage as a call for safety, not a personal failing, you can make lasting changes. It’s a journey of patience and self-compassion.

What you’ll learn listening to this episode:

  • Why self-sabotage isn’t a sign of weakness, but a cry for safety
  • How diet culture and perfectionism fuel self-sabotaging behaviors
  • Practical steps to reframe self-sabotage and foster personal growth

Mentioned in the show:

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Podcast Stephanie Dodier


I’m Stephanie Dodier – Non-Diet Nutritionist and Coach. I help women fight diet culture by reshaping their mind not their body. I have been hosting a million downloads podcast- It’s Beyond The Food for over 8 years and created the Going Beyond The Food Method™️, which was born from my own journey with a 25 years dieting career  and has since grown into a global movement.

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