Losing weight (and keeping it off) is a challenge, and not a short-term one. Most people who try to lose weight are unsuccessful the first several times, and one of the many reasons may be that they are being their own worst enemy.
Self-sabotage is one of the largest obstacles to weight loss. This does not mean that you don’t have enough willpower. It means that you are struggling against your own biology in an environment where weight bias and stigma persist. You may do really well for a while, and then find yourself engaging in a behavior you swore you would never engage in again. Self-sabotage is when our efforts are undermined by our own negative habits, despite all of our good intentions. We may or may not be aware of it.
Common Ways We Self-Sabotage
Binging on processed junk food or alcohol are some ways in which we self-sabotage our efforts. Here are some others that you might struggle with.
We’ve all seen those ads that promise rapid weight loss at an unrealistic rate, making us feel like anything less isn’t worth the effort. Or you may feel as if you have to get your weight down to a specific number for a wedding (somebody else’s or your own) or some other special event that’s fast approaching.
Rushing weight loss can lead to unsustainable behavior patterns that are easily broken, usually at the worst possible time. Weight loss takes time, so be patient with yourself and don’t rush the process.
Self-Deprivation and Over-Restriction
This is probably the biggest thing people struggle with. You decide you have to eat healthy, 100% of the time, or else you’re “failing.” This can manifest in a few ways:
- You vow you will never again touch chocolate cake, get to a party and have three slices. For some of us, completely depriving ourselves of foods we enjoy may result in increased desire for those foods. For those of us who struggle with this “all or nothing” mindset, moderation is a skill that we must practice in order to master. Instead of taking chocolate cake (for example) off the menu completely, cut yourself a smaller slice. Get bite-sized brownies or cookies so “one brownie” or “one cookie” is less sugar.
- You eat healthy food…but too much of it. You fill yourself up with healthy options but eat too many times per day or too much at each sitting, unaware of your body’s hunger cues. This leaves you wondering why you can’t get the weight down despite choosing healthy options. In this scenario, the real issue is the quantity of the food and eating when not hungry, not the quality of the food.
Competing and Comparing
The third common yet detrimental thing people do is compete with and compare themselves to others. This isn’t helpful since we are all unique in our journey and need to focus only on our personal goals and setting realistic expectations.
Everyone moves at their own pace and everyone’s metabolism is different. You may lose weight faster or slower than others and you almost certainly hold onto it in different places. Comparing yourself to others can distract you from your own progress.
Worse, it can lead to rushing when you try to catch up with somebody else, and thus lead to unsustainable habits which then result in weight regain. Alternatively, if you tend to be a people pleaser, you might slow down to let other people “win.” You might also end up with increased negative thoughts or becoming jealous of others.
You need to compare yourself only with yourself and not worry about what your friends or total strangers are doing.
Other Self-Sabotaging Behaviors
Here are a few other things that you might think are a good idea but often lead to feeling let-down:
- Cutting too much fat out of your diet. Our bodies need fat to function, especially our brains. Too little fat can make us depressed, hungry, miserable, and unproductive. Meanwhile we may not be losing weight because those low-fat items have more sugar in them. Instead of cutting fat out, choose healthy fats such as whole eggs, fish, avocados, grass-fed beef and nuts.
- Getting obsessed with snacking. One weight loss tip that’s often given is to stop snacking. You shouldn’t be grazing on snacks all day, but if you’re hungry between meals, getting a snack will make sure that you don’t come to the dinner table starving and serve yourself a huge portion.
- Treating your diet as a punishment, whether for the “sin of gluttony” or anything else. This can lead to feelings of resentment towards your diet, increasing the likelihood that you may break it.
- Being negative and defensive. Thinking you can’t reach your goals may lead you to give up easily. Expecting perfection of yourself is another potential problem. We should strive for progress, not perfection.
- Not asking for help. Maybe some people can do this on their own, but the truth is that most of us need help, even if it’s only somebody to encourage us when we are feeling discouraged or check in and ask us if we’ve worked out today.
- Letting yourself get distracted by work, drama, or toxic people. Toxic friends in particular can induce bad habits and drama in general can result in stress eating.
How to Stop Self-Sabotaging
So, how do you stop doing these things? In some cases it’s a matter of coming up with a sustainable plan your brain and body are happy with. Can you have dessert once a week, for example? If you find it unsuccessful to restrict certain foods completely, it’s better to reduce than eliminate.
In order to learn how to avoid this unhealthy behavior, we need to understand why we are self-sabotaging. In many cases this has to do with low self-esteem. Or perhaps part of us doesn’t want to lose weight because, for example, for fear that being thinner will attract more unwanted advances. Another issue is that we might not be good at delayed gratification. We want cake now, so we get it. Waiting a few minutes and doing something else can really help.
We need to become aware of what causes us to restrict food and what causes us to binge. Record all of the behaviors and isolate things which trigger binge eating. For example, do you find yourself with a bag of fries every time anyone mentions your ex? Writing everything down can also help you separate yourself from the thoughts which cause you to self-sabotage.
Don’t be intimidated or embarrassed to seek out professional help. Our experienced healthcare professionals at Dr. Simonds Weight Loss & Metabolics never judge and are here to help you succeed. We have many tools, including weight loss medications that will help jump-start your weight loss journey.
A coach can help you, as can a diet buddy. (For exercise in particular, a buddy can be extremely helpful. Most people are more willing to do something if they would let somebody else down by not doing it).
You can also turn to therapy. A good therapist can help you identify what is getting between you and your goals, and drill down to the real reasons you might not be aware of. This can then help you do something about it.
Above all, we need to learn to address our own negative and toxic thoughts, and seek out sustainable food habits that we can actually stick to in the long term. And that’s why we are here for you at the practice. We will provide you with a custom, tailored plan that works for you. Everyone is different and unique in their own way, and we are happy to help you succeed.