Self-Sabotage: Why We Do It and How We Can Stop

Do you ever wonder why we work and struggle so hard to eat healthy, change our lifestyle and lose weight, only to sabotage ourselves after just a few days or weeks? It seems pretty counter- intuitive that after eating healthy for a period of time or even losing a few pounds we would choose (because yes, it’s a choice) to go all out and order a pizza and some cheesy bread then top it all off with some ice cream. Even as the food is going down you might ask yourself why you’re doing it, but you can’t seem to make it stop. I use to self-sabotaged myself more times that I can even remember. In this article I’ve outlined the top three reasons why we self-sabotage our weight loss efforts and give you tips and tricks to quit this behavior once and for all.

1. You see slip-ups or less than ideal decisions around food as a set-back.

 We find a diet, follow it for a bit…then it gets hard.  We slip-up, we eat pizza at a family party, we have a few beers with friends, we cave and eat some candy…we’ve failed. Then we enter the downward spiral of negative-self talk which leads to even more self-sabotage.

To combat that mindset, we need to remind ourselves is that failure is a necessary step towards success.  Success takes willpower and determination, but more than anything else, success sort of requires failure.  Failing shows us that what we’re doing isn’t working for us.  That means we can learn to not make that same mistake again and switch things up. Weight loss takes lots of trial and error.  What works for me probably won’t work for you, so you have to expect that you’ll need to go back to the drawing board a few times before getting it right.  Failing also show us that we’re trying which is always better than quitting or not even starting in the first place 😉

When we have a not so great day or make a less than ideal food choice, we have two options:

A- Beat ourselves up about it including negative self-talk, overeating, over exercising, do a cleanse or detox, restrict, etc.


B- Think about what you can do differently next time.  Maybe it’s being more mindful when you eat, maybe it’s drinking more water, it could be any number of things, but option B will keep you moving forward towards the weight loss goal whereas A will keep you stuck. 

To be successful at weight loss, you need to expect some bumps in the road, forgive yourself when they happen, look for the lesson and move on. You also have to commit to yourself that you’re going to do whatever it takes to keep moving forward towards your goal despite and bumps along the way because there will always be bumps!


2. You take people’s comments and compliments about your body to heart.

A few months into my Figure competition training, a man approached me at the gym who I was pretty friendly with.  We had talked about my Figure training before and I explained to him that it’s like bodybuilding with a feminine twist (makeup, hair, heels, sparkly bikini…).  So when I saw him walking towards me I figured he was going to ask how my training was going. Instead he said “I thought this was a feminine look you were going for? Don’t get too big, you’ve got some meat on ya now.”  I’ll tell you, at that point in time this was absolutely crushing to my self-esteem.  Here I was working so hard at the gym, struggling SO much with staying on my nutrition program and this guy is telling me I’m bulky and not feminine looking. I was working so incredibly hard and it still wasn’t good enough. What was the point of even trying to stick to my plan?  Off I went to CVS to stock up on my binging essentials- Pop-Tarts, ice cream and Oreos…

On the flip side, at the very start of my Figure training program one of my clients said “Lauren you look fantastic!  I see a transformation!”  Awesome! I was off the hook!  I was doing so well and people were noticing so I could totally have a day where I ate my face off, right?!  That’s exactly what I did and it was a slippery slope into the binge-restrict-I’ll-start-again-tomorrow cycle.  As I’ve mentioned before, Figure competitor diets are extremely rigid and need to be followed to a T.  I got a taste of the stuff I “shouldn’t” have and suddenly there was this constant tug-of-war in my mind between staying on plan and restricting and eating off plan and bingeing.

The moral here is, much like we see ourselves from our own perception, flaws and all, people see us from theirs.  So their compliment or comments actually means nothing to us personally…they’re simply someone’s perception of how we look.  We simply cannot afford to give others opinions that much power over our personal decisions.   There’s a great quote that says “Don’t let people’s compliments go to your head and don’t let their criticisms go to your heart.” It just not worth your energy to worry about what others think, especially when it comes to your body because…its YOUR body not theirs.  They don’t know your story, your struggles, your successes.  Instead of worrying about what others think, focus on how you talk to yourself and how you think about yourself because that’s the stuff that actually matters.


3. You’re stuck in the restrict-binge cycle.

We’ve talked about this a lot but self-sabotage is never more present than when we restrict and binge.  

During the first three weeks or so of whatever diet I was on at the time, I was the picture perfect client.  I ate exactly according to plan and followed my workouts precisely as they were laid out.  Then came my first social event of the summer and also the first since I started my program. My friends had just moved into a new house and wanted to have a BBQ.  I went to the party and of course it was full of foods on the “do not eat” list.  I ate my programmed meal before I went but I was almost consumed with the idea of having all those forbidden foods right at my fingertips.  I could just have a few chips and be ok, right?  A few handfuls later: “well I might as well eat a cupcake.  I just won’t have anything to drink.” A half hour later I was drinking margaritas, eating a burger and having even more chips.  The entire time I was having a wicked internal conversation about how much of a failure I was.  I couldn’t even stick to this diet at ONE party.  How would I EVER succeed?  I, of course, vowed to start again tomorrow but it was always a short-lived run at eating “perfectly” then I was back to downing the “do not eat” foods.

When we live in this restrict-binge cycle, food isn’t something we enjoy anymore.  Instead, it turns into a punishment because we are eating to spite ourselves and prove ourselves right that ‘yes, I am a failure and I’ll show you just how far I can go.’ 

Instead of restricting and bingeing, give yourself permission to eat the foods you love!  As the novelty wears off you’ll want those foods less and less and you’ll be able to focus more on the foods that make you feel (and look) good!

There’s no way around the fact that losing weight is HARD WORK.  There’s so much trial and error, so many ups and downs, lots of set-backs and successes.  We have to stay commit to keep pushing when things get tough, brush it off when you have an off day/week/month, make sure you’re on this journey for YOU not for someone else or based off of someone else’s opinions and lastly, allow yourself to eat your favorite foods.

 Because really, what’s life without a little guilt-free wine 😉


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