Have you ever gone well in your weight loss journey only to do something silly to sabotage yourself?
Weight loss self-sabotage isn’t limited to just one event. It’s usually a pattern of behaviour that keeps repeating itself.
And whatever way you sabotage yourself, you’re probably confused as to why you do it. Especially when you’re so desperate to lose weight.
But before we look at the reasons why you sabotage your weight loss, let’s examine what sabotage is, and the signs that you’re self-sabotaging.
What is self-sabotage
Self-sabotage is when your negative habits consistently undermine your efforts. These behaviours or thoughts keep you away from what you most want in life, despite your intentions to achieve your goals. You may be aware that some of your behaviours are self-sabotaging (e.g. bingeing and drinking). However, there are likely to be many other things you do, that you aren’t even aware of, that also sabotage your efforts.
Common self-sabotaging behaviours
We’ve already mentioned excessive eating and drinking — which are the two habits that most of us can relate to. However, other behaviours that sabotage your efforts include:
- Focusing on the end result instead of the journey
- Trying to ‘rush’ your results by adopting a diet mindset
- Restricting food
- Focusing on the scales and weight loss
- Thinking that weight loss has a deadline
- Overthinking and allowing yourself to become overwhelmed
- Negative self-talk (e.g. “I can’t do this”, “it’s too hard”, etc.)
- Being defensive
- Skipping your training sessions or not doing the things that will get you closer to your goals
- Avoiding accountability
- Comparing yourself to other people
- People-pleasing or not putting yourself first
- Shutting down and retreating into yourself
- Not asking for help when you need it
- Not taking responsibility, and getting angry or blaming other people when things don’t go your own way
- Aiming to be perfect, or only doing things you know you’re good at
- Hanging out with toxic people
- Seeking out people who will tell you want you want to hear, instead of what you need to hear
- Staying up late and not getting enough sleep
- Avoiding the things you’re scared of
- Finding excuses
- Distracting yourself with work or drama
- Being more concerned about where other people are at, instead of focusing on your own progress
- Having a know-it-all-mindset
- Judging, criticising or gossiping about other people (this takes focus away from what you need to do).
What causes you to self-sabotage your weight loss?
There are two main reasons people end up sabotaging their weight loss goals (or any goal for that matter) — lack of self-esteem and fear.
Lack of self-esteem
When you feel worthless, don’t like yourself, don’t believe you deserve success or don’t believe in your abilities, your negative self-talk will be strong and will often take over without you even realising. You might often find yourself saying things like:
“I can’t do this”
“I’m going to fail anyway”
“I’ve never been able to do this”
“It’s too hard”
“What’s the point?”
“I don’t think I can”
These negative thoughts focus on your doubts and cause you to stop putting your best efforts in, or throwing in the towel completely. This negative self-talk also fuels your fears — the other reason why you sabotage yourself.
Fear of failure
People often fear two things — failure and judgement. When you’re working towards a goal, it can feel scary, especially if you have to do things you’ve never done before, or if there is no guarantee that you will achieve what you set out to do. Instead of focusing on what might go right, and what we might achieve, most of us focus on the negatives.
“What if I don’t make it?”
“What if I put in all that hard work and still don’t succeed?”
“How will I cope if I fail?”
Being afraid of failing will cause you to procrastinate, overthink and avoid taking any action at all. And then this fear of failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy — you end up failing, not because you couldn’t do it, but because you didn’t take action.
The other thing you’re afraid of is judgement — what will people think?
Fear of judgement
As human beings, our most basic need is to be loved and accepted. This is why so many people do anything to try to ‘fit in’ — even putting themselves last, or suppressing who they really are in an effort to please everyone and be liked.
But the truth is, to successfully lose weight and keep it off, you need to put yourself first. You need to prioritise your goals and the action steps required to ensure success, over keeping other people happy. This can cause you to worry about what other people might think.
Will my friends think I’m not fun anymore?
Will they stop asking me to go out with them?
What will people think when they see me in my leggings?
Will people laugh at me because I’m so unfit?
Will my family be upset that I won’t be eating dessert with them every night?
Will everyone judge me if I fail?
If you’re afraid of failing, or being judged, you’ll continue to engage in behaviours that will appear to keep you ‘safe’ — safe from failure and safe from judgement.
But instead of keeping you safe, they will sabotage your weight loss efforts, and cause you to doubt yourself even more.
A vicious cycle
One of the worst things about self-sabotage is that it can spiral out of control and become a vicious cycle that you can’t get out of.
Let’s look at an example.
Theresa has low-self esteem and doesn’t think she’s good enough. There is a mum at school called Dee who she always compares herself to. Dee is fit and strong, and looks fabulous in whatever she wears. She always seems happy and confident, has a happy marriage, is involved in her kids’ lives, and runs a successful business. She never seems stressed or worried and has a great group of supportive friends.
Whenever Theresa sees her, she compares her life to Dee’s because Dee seems to have everything that she wants. Dee is a trigger for Theresa to go into self-sabotage mode. This involves restricting food in an effort to try to lose weight. But this restriction then causes Theresa to binge. When this happens, Theresa feels guilty and even worse about herself, so she retreats into herself. She no longer communicates with her coach, and ends up skipping her training sessions and ignoring all communication from them. Because Theresa binges, she then restricts food even more, in an effort to offset the binge. But this leads to more bingeing, which leads to further restriction.
Bingeing all the time causes Theresa to feel bad about herself. This leads her to feel bad about the fact she’s feeling bad about bingeing, which perpetuates the cycle even further. As a way to console herself, Theresa ends up eating even more food in an effort to feel better. Because Theresa feels ashamed, she retreats further into herself and further away from her coach, believing that if she does, they won’t know what’s going on.
Theresa believes that retreating enables her to hide from her coach. What she doesn’t realise is that retreating only removes her accountability and no one is able to help her. This means she will continue this self-sabotaging behaviour of restriction, binge and retreat for longer. The truth is, when you hide away and remove accountability, you begin to feel empty. And the emptier you feel, the more food you will eat to fill this gap. This bingeing then causes restriction, which causes bingeing and retreating, and becomes a vicious cycle.
The longer you’re in the restrict, binge and retreat mode, the more extreme your restrictions and binges become, and the longer you’ll be off track.
The dieting pendulum
People who are dieters often swing between two sets of behaviours — restriction and bingeing. It’s a bit like a clock pendulum. Restriction feels like you’re in control because you’re starving and depriving yourself of food. But the more you swing to this side, the harder you’ll swing back to the other side which is chaos — bingeing, emotional eating and feeling out of control. This bingeing then causes you to swing back to the other side of control, which sees you swing even harder towards bingeing.
The truth is that bingeing is always a sign of restriction. The more you restrict your food, the more you will binge. And the more you binge, the more you’ll restrict. And the longer you keep up this pattern of behaviour, the longer your self-sabotage episodes will last.
How to stop the weight loss sabotage
Weight loss sabotage occurs when you make decisions based in your emotions, instead of common sense. The way to get past this is by increasing your awareness.
Increase your awareness
Being aware of your triggers to restrict food and binge is the first step. However, the only way you can increase your awareness is to work with a coach and record your behaviours. By recording data about what triggers you and what your reaction is, you’ll be able to see patterns of behaviours — or habits — that you have.
Change your habit loop
When you understand your habit and how the habit loop operates, you will then have the power to change how you respond to your triggers. For example, in Theresa’s case, her trigger is seeing Dee, which causes her to compare herself and restrict food in an attempt to lose weight so she can feel happier. The reward in this situation is the feeling of control she gets by restricting her food, which ironically leads her to be totally out of control when the binges happen. However, if Theresa changed her routine to something that would still leave her feeling like she was in control, yet wouldn’t lead to the restriction-binge cycle, she wouldn’t end up self-sabotaging. An example of this might be prepping healthy meals, or going for a walk.
Working with a coach who is emotionally removed from your situation will help you change your self-sabotaging habits. As we mentioned before, self-sabotage happens when you make silly decisions based on your emotions. However, the right coach will be able to give you the right action steps that will help you overcome your habit of self-sabotage.
In order to overcome your self-sabotaging habits — whatever they are — you need to be accountable to a coach who can help you. Without this level of accountability, you’ll be forever stuck in the loop of making decisions based on your emotions, instead of common sense.
Stop the weight loss sabotage
At Imani Tribe Transformations, we help our clients break free from their patterns of self-sabotage by helping them identify their triggers, their routines and their reward system. Once we do that, we are able to provide them with a personalised plan that will help them overcome self-sabotage, and keep them progressing towards their goals.
If you’re finally read to stop sabotaging your weight loss efforts, contact us NOW.