Weight Loss & Avoiding Self-Sabotage

When you're working hard on weight loss, it seems logical that you'd do everything in your power to stay the course. Unfortunately, human nature has an illogical streak, so don't be surprised if you stumble into a bout of self-sabotage.

Self-sabotage happens when you create a situation that sets you up for failure. Sometimes it's purely unconscious, and sometimes you realize what you're doing but are powerless to stop it. Either way, it usually stems from deeper issues, like low self-esteem or an inner belief that you don't deserve to succeed.

Putting the Brakes on Self-Sabotage

Thankfully, you don't have to let that old baggage hold you down. The experts at Weight Watchers say there are simple remedies for most attempts to sabotage yourself. For example, if you're forcing yourself to avoid all of your favorite foods to the point where your desire drives you to a binge, stop being so strict. Let yourself enjoy small portions of the food you love. Dr. Sharon Marks, a specialist in metabolism and nutrition, told Weight Watchers, "If you say foods are bad, then you will start to crave them and overeat them because they are forbidden." Instead of giving them that "bad" label, work them into a sensible eating plan.

If you can't resist throwing caution to the wind and overeating at restaurants, make a plan ahead of time and stick to it. Look at the menu online and make a sensible choice. If you want a larger entree, sharing it with your dining partner or have your server box up half of it to take home before you start eating. Add in a bit of exercise by parking your car a few blocks from the restaurant to force yourself into a brisk walk that will burn off at least a few of the calories. The walk will also remind you to stick to your plan.

Sometimes you sabotage yourself right from the start by setting unrealistic weight loss goals. It's easy to get discouraged and quit if you expect to shed mountains of weight and see only modest weight loss. Despite what all the infomercials and pop-up ads tell you, weight loss is a long journey, and doing it right means doing it slow and steady.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stresses making your goals realistic and building in some room for forgiveness. Being too harsh on yourself is a form of self-sabotage because it gives you a reason to give up. Change your perspective and look at lapses at temporary setbacks. Turn them into learning experiences, not excuses to quit.

Stopping Sabotage by Others

Sometimes family and friends sabotage your weight loss plan, either accidentally or on purpose. Your friends at work might urge you to have a big piece of cake at the latest office celebration, or your partner might keep buying all those snack foods you just can't resist. Your adult siblings might snicker and say, "Oh sure, here you go again," bringing a rush of shame and embarrassment that goes all the way back to your childhood.

The main way to stop others from sabotaging you is to draw and maintain clear boundaries. When there's a party at work, pick and choose what you eat or bring your own healthy alternative to make it harder for others to tempt you. When they try, say, "Thanks for the offer, but I'm eating healthy and that's not part of my plan." If they push, call them out. Say something like, "I already told you that that's not part of my eating plan. Why do you keep asking me instead of respecting my answer?" Asking a question puts the other person on the spot and generally makes him or her back off.

When your partner accidentally tempts you, remind him or her that you need support. Explain the importance of keeping temptation at a minimum and ask for a commitment to keep certain foods out of the house. That way, if he or she brings in one of the "no no" foods, you can say, "Remember when you promised that you wouldn't do this? I know you love me, and I really need your help right now. What will you do to make sure you remember to honor your commitment from now on?"

If family members like parents and siblings play into old dysfunctional, draw a firm boundary. You can't force others to confront and deal with the past, but you can keep them from sabotaging your own efforts. If siblings, or even adult parents, say something out of line, be firm. Tell them, "I don't appreciate those kinds of comments. Let's change the subject, and if you can't be respectful to me and my efforts to get healthy, then we'll have to end this conversation."

No weight loss journey is perfectly smooth, and sabotage by yourself and others is one of the most common bumps in the road. Be prepared with helpful strategies and you'll still manage to reach your goals.

Tools for Transformation

Fitness begins with the mind. Use the tools below to help achieve your weight loss goals 

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  • Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success
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  • 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself
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  • Write it Down, Make it Happen
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