Have you ever been doing really well, and then fallen into self sabotage?
Find yourself having eaten waaay to much and feel like you’ve totally messed it up.
It’s SO frustrating right? You end up stuck in this vicious cycle, often not really sure why you’re sabotaging yourself in the first place.
This article will guide you through identifying what’s going on, and provide you with tools to help break the pattern.
Knowing when and why you self sabotage
First, we need to bring awareness to what’s going on.
Are there certain situations where you tend to sabotage yourself?
Do you get to a certain point in your weight loss journey and then something happens?
You might suddenly lose motivation and start letting those good healthy habits slip.
You might find you stall on the scales and get frustrated.
Or maybe someone comments that you look amazing and within hours you find yourself mindlessly overeating, almost like your brain couldn’t handle the compliment.
Patterns like these are more common than we think and the first step is just to start noticing them.
What happens for you?
Then, we need to get curious. Why does this happen?
Often we spend a handful of seconds in curiosity, and then proceed immediately to judgement.
Don’t do that! Judging and beating yourself up won’t help you. It’s a waste of time that could be spent learning. Dig deep into the thoughts that you have – assume the role of a detective. Aim to think analytically rather than emotionally.
When we follow patterns of behaviour, there is almost always an underlying belief that kicks things off.
Behaviours come from feelings and emotions, which themselves are created by thoughts.
Thoughts often crop up as a reaction to particular situations or circumstances.
For example, you might step on the scales and your weight hasn’t changed despite your best efforts all week. The thought that crops up could be ‘FFS! Why am I bothering? I’ll never be slim. I may as well go and eat whatever I want. Where’s the chocolate?’
The thought is the problem that drives the sabotage. The circumstance is what it is – it’s a fact that your weight is the number you see on the scales. Although you always need to remember that’s just the sum total of your muscles, bones, fat, organs, water, skin etc on this day – it doesn’t mean you haven’t lost fat.
Anyhow, in this situation, you’re deciding to make that number mean that you’ll never be slim and may drive yourself off the rails. That isn’t a fact – it’s your brain’s (incorrect and unhelpful) opinion. Choosing a different thought will change the entire experience that follows.
‘Ok, it’s the same. That’s fine. I’m feeling good and I know I’m doing the right things. I’ll keep going and it will drop soon. I love that the scales have no power over me now.’
That kind of thinking gets you feeling happier and more empowered, noticing the good things and feeling proud of your efforts. Just by changing the thought, you’re likely to keep taking positive action, and that will create the progress you want to see.
Self compassion for self sabotage
Every slip up has a lesson, and you can’t learn that lesson while you’re otherwise engaged in beating yourself up. The best way to change is to take the role of a friend to yourself.
Many of us struggle with self-compassion – we are wired and conditioned to be extremely hard on ourselves. An exercise that helps me is to skip ahead to a vision of my last days on earth. Looking back at life, I know I would regret spending countless precious days, weeks, months, being unhappy because I was choosing to feel bad.
I would want to remember being kind to myself. Being proud of my efforts, encouraging myself rather than criticising myself. No matter how many times I messed up, I’d want to look back, see that I was on my own side, and be thrilled at just how far that took me. That’s the best way to get to where you want to be.
Imagine a child starting school. Everything is new and scary, there’s so much to learn. How would you help that child feel calm and settled? I’m guessing you probably wouldn’t suggest she eats a whole packet of biscuits or drinks a bottle of wine. You’d comfort her with kind words of support and encouragement right? We need to do that to our inner child too.
The world is scary, there’s a lot to do and a lot to learn. It’s inevitable that we will make plenty of mistakes. That’s ok. That’s how humans of any age learn. The reason we adults often don’t learn is because we judge and berate ourselves when we slip up. Which makes us want to sweep it all under the carpet.
Rather than analyse what happened with compassion and curiosity, we feel guilty, try to forget it, and then continue to repeat the pattern. If you notice a negative inner conversation going on, stop and ask: ‘How can I be a friend to myself right now?’
Follow on questions:
What can I learn from this?
What’s the next positive action I can take?
Determination to end self-sabotage
If you want to end self sabotage and reach your goal, you absolutely can.
To do this you need to let your determination shine brighter your doubt.
Refuse to give up on yourself. Be prepared to show up for yourself over and over again.
Putting in the consistent effort is tough, painful at times. But you have a choice of two paths to follow, and you’ll experience both pain and pleasure either way.
Continue on as you have been, and you’ll continue to enjoy short term pleasure during the sabotage, followed by long term pain of being stuck in the same cycle.
Decide to work on the thoughts that are holding you back, and you’ll experience short term pain of sitting with discomfort when you really want to go for the food or drink. But you’ll be rewarded with progress, pride, and the sheer joy of finally overcoming that struggle to get to where you want to be.
Which will you choose?
Systems for ending self sabotage
When you observe your thoughts, write things down, and discover patterns, you can start to create systems to help you. Systems make things simpler, and give you a go-to process to follow that will help you create results.
Having more structure and creating plans can seem boring or restrictive at times, but it actually produces more excitement and freedom. By creating these frameworks, you reduce thinking time, help keep yourself on track, and make space for enjoying the best of what you love.
Plans and ideas
Improving your thoughts – journalling (writing down and observing thoughts each day), writing positive affirmations, listening to mindset podcasts on your commute to work.
Reducing stress – 10 minute guided meditations (Calm is a great app to use), making time for quiet and time for doing things you love. Have a go-to calming ritual, like making your favourite cup of tea. Wrapping yourself up in your favourite blanket or hoodie if you’re at home. Cuddles with kids, pets, partners, friends.
Managing each day – making a daily food plan, sticking to a set routine, keeping fruit and protein in stock, having back up meals in the freezer.
Dealing with a craving – ask if you’re truly hungry (if not, what is it you really want?). Set a timer for 15 minutes. Drink a glass of water. Then do something productive, whether it’s a task, household chores, reading, or sitting calmly to help yourself feel better. If you still want it in 15 minutes, enjoy slowly and mindfully. Chances are the craving will have passed and you can carry on with your day.
Minimising slip ups – keep trigger foods out of the house, and tempting options hidden behind healthier ones. Ensure there is always an easy healthy choice at home. Carry a protein or snack bar in your bag when out and about. Each morning look ahead and ask ‘what could throw me off today?’ Go into that situation with a plan.
Feeling happy and fulfilled in life – schedule time for self care, family and friends each week, make time for fun, passions, hobbies and interests. Keep looking for ways you can do this and taking a big picture view – life is busy and you only get one. Are you busy doing things that make you happy?
Final thoughts on self sabotage
Sometimes we get caught up in a cycle of comparing, always trying to do more, never feeling enough. But zoom out from life and the swirling thoughts, and you’ll see you’re just like everyone else – a human. There’s nothing wrong with you. You just have patterns that currently don’t serve you, and you can change them.
It starts with awareness. Look for patterns and examine them with curiosity and self compassion. Write down your thoughts, and question the validity of the negative ones. Start choosing thoughts that serve you better.
Notice when and where you tend to fall off track. Along with changing your thoughts, could you make practical changes to your routine or environment? When you’re aware of triggers and areas where structure is not in place, you can work on changing it.
Life is busy and most of us sabotage when we’re feeling overwhelmed. Take a step back. Work on ways to reduce stress. Don’t compare yourself to others, on social media or in real life. Stay focused on you. How can you take more care of yourself, physically and emotionally?
If you struggle to do this on your own (and most people do), this is what we work on in online coaching.
Either way, remember you don’t need to get it right all the time, or get anywhere close to perfect. Just keep doing your best and take lessons from slip ups. Tweak your approach (notice all the great things you did that week too), and continue onward.
If you need any help, always feel free to get in touch.