Self-sabotaging is when we actively or passively take steps to prevent ourselves from reaching our goals. This behaviour can affect almost every aspect our lives, whether it be relationships with people, careers, or maybe a personal goal like weight loss or fitness goals.
Despite having lost 5st I still continue to have periods where I self-sabotage. My weapon of choice for self-sabotaging is food…well not just food, sugar…sweets, chocolate. Always has been my go-to, so when I’m having a bad day, when I’m not feeling great, when I’m feeling sorry for myself, when I’m doing really well, but don’t feel like I should be doing really well, I reach for the crap.
Ascertaining why you self-sabotage is difficult, all too often it isn’t just 1 specific thing that causes you to do it. I can self-sabotage because I’ve dropped the 3lb I’ve been wanting to get rid of. I can self-sabotage because I’m feeling sorry for myself, or I’m feeling hormonal. I can self-sabotage when I’m feeling happy and when I’m feeling miserable.
Your self-sabotaging tool might lay with crisps, or wine, or beers, or it might be pushing people away from you when you could actually really do with them, or at work allowing other people to take credit for work you have done, just because you don’t feel worthy of the praise.
But why do we self-sabotage? If you’re wanting to lose weight, why do you work really hard to do that and then spend time binging on bags of crisps/sweets/chocolate/biscuits undoing your efforts? If you’re wanting to get fit, why do you stop yourself from going out for that walk or run? Why do you reach for the easy option instead of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone?
We do it because we want something, but then we fear we just might actually get it, we won’t be able to handle it or sustain it, or perhaps we think we don’t even deserve it. We simply find a way to ruin it.
As a Personal Trainer I consider myself fortunate that I really do understand this process; I experience it firsthand on a regular basis!
Take for example last month. I got through Christmas, Quality Street, a little overindulgence just fine. I went into the New Year with my resolution to not eat chocolate for the year and do you know something? It’s now February and I haven’t had a smidgen. Something to celebrate you might think? Well sort of, but no, because what I did instead was take that “I’m not eating chocolate” to mean “let’s just keep eating sweets because that way you won’t notice that you’re not eating chocolate”. What happened? I kept on eating way more sweets than was necessary and when you overeat, when you consume more calories than you burn, well you put on weight and yes, that’s what happened. Despite exercising really well, the quantity of sweets I’ve been eating exceeded the burning calories. I’m not talking a handful of Dolly Mixtures or a couple of Haribo Strawberries, I’m talking entire packets (minus the few I pass to the boy), Percy Pigs have been my recent weakness, I can eat a whole bag entirely mindlessly within a day and not even feel the remotest bit sick! Except at some point I do get sick of it. Thankfully!
A few years ago when I first decided I was sick of being overweight and joined a gym, I did really well at identifying habits which led me to where I was. My biggest issue at the time (as well as genuinely eating really unhealthily) was Midget Gems and I think I’m at 6 years and 4 months now since I had one. I’m almost at over 6 years since having a fizzy drink and I think it’s 5 or 6 years this Easter since I had sugar in my cups of tea (bear in mind I’d been a tea 2 sugars person for over 30 years)! So habits you’ve had for years can be changed. They really can. You simply create new ones.
Despite all of these positive changes, it is still always something that I have to be mindful of. Just because I managed to lose 5st, it doesn’t magically stay off. If I eat too much, if I stop moving, then I put weight on. That’s what happens with anyone. It would be a lot easier if I didn’t have a sweet tooth and it would also be a lot easier if I didn’t continue to sabotage my efforts, but I’m human, just the same as you.
So how do you stop self-sabotaging?
There are lots of different ways, you have to work at finding a few techniques that are going to work for you, because like anything; it’s not a one-size fits all approach.
I’m a lot better if I have a plan. If I identify the problem and think rationally about a way to stop the behaviour that deep down makes me miserable.
One of the things I used to do was have a little countdown chart…I’d knock off the pounds lost each week and do you know what I’d do? If I lost weight I’d celebrate by going and buying a doughnut! Seriously! It was my “treat” for doing well. What I ended up doing instead was celebrating the pounds lost by buying a new nail varnish and painting my nails…because with freshly painted nails I tended not to want to eat as much because I’m prone to smudging and scratching the varnish really easily!
I stopped weighing in on a Monday….yes Mondays are good days to start things, but if you’re like a lot of people and indulge a little on the weekend, why on earth would you upset yourself by standing on the scales the morning after? Pick Friday as a day to weigh yourself and then if you do go a little overboard at the weekend, you’ve got the whole of the week to get on track!
Set yourself a challenge to cut something out. Especially if it’s something that’s really not doing you any favours. This is something I do throughout the year, cutting out the crap sugar – things like the sweets and I know it is literally a couple of days before your body starts to thank you for it. Your resting heart rate reduces, you stop getting the artificial highs, your skin gets clearer, your moods end up getting better and you start sleeping better. You don’t even have to cut it out forever, sometimes just cutting something out for a month allows for a bit of a re-set and you’ve broken the habit somewhat.
If your self-sabotage is around your workout and exercise plans, change them up. Don’t have just one workout that you do, find a selection, so on the days when you’re in a mood and wanting to stop everything, you have something quieter to do, something less bouncy perhaps if you’re usually a bit HIIT fan. Variety, give yourself options and then you aren’t left with the “I’ll just do nothing” because there will always be something you can do.
Find someone to support you – whether that be a professional, or even just a friend or group of friends, be honest about what you’re doing and wanting to do and allow them to support you, you’ll probably find they’re in a similar position and have been waiting for something to spur them on too!
Accepting and acknowledging your behaviour is a start in overcoming it. Knowing that you might slip is OK, trusting that you can get back on enables you to keep going.
So don’t think you’re on your own. If you want something badly enough, you can get it and you deserve to have it. Stop ruining it for yourself because the other feeling is a lot better!