What Are Your Thoughts on Self-Sabotage?

The concept of self-sabotage in weight loss is a very real issue and one that I think is under discussed.

Do you ever wonder why we try so hard to lose weight and get healthy, only to sabotage our own efforts? It would seem counter- intuitive that after eating healthy for a period of time we would deliberately choose to pig out on a decadent dessert, eat ice cream from the container, or order and inhale calorie laden restaurant meal. Even as the food is going down you know you shouldn’t be eating it, but you can’t seem to stop. I did this more times that I can even remember, but here’s an example of one particularly bad decision I made that set me back in my weight loss efforts.

We were given a gift membership to Sam’s Club, where both the physical store and the size of the packages are huge. John and I loaded up the girls, and eagerly set off to try out our new card. We loaded the shopping cart with huge packages of paper towels, toilet paper and other dry goods. We also stocked up on bread, flour and treats. Treats like chocolate chips sold in a bag that weighed in at 3 pounds, 50 packages of chips, and candy that was meant to be bought by people selling it from a concession stand. When we got home, our pantry was full, and my mind was spinning with all the eating possibilities.

Oh, did I forget to mention at the beginning of that story that I was on a diet at the time? I forgot too, as I ripped open the several pound box of Hershey’s miniature candy, and began sorting through to find my favorite kind – Mr. Goodbar. I opened and ate one after another, just about as fast as humanly possible. Each time I thought to myself, “This will be the last one.” But they were so good, I just couldn’t stop. Needless to say, that day was the last day of that particular diet. I just couldn’t get myself back on track after that episode.

Has this ever happened to you? We don’t set out to sabotage ourselves, but we somehow end up making choices that sabotage our weight loss efforts. And if you are anything like I was, then once you are on a roll, it’s hard to stop.

I would get so mad at myself after I did these kinds of things. Why couldn’t I just say no? What was wrong with me that I had so little control? Once I finally got started on the right path to both health, and weight loss, I still struggled with self-sabotage. Even after I had lost 25 or 30 pounds, I would find myself heading to the kitchen to whip up a batch or two of sugar cookies. Although I had rid the kitchen of chocolate, I still had the ingredients on hand to make sugar cookies, and other non-chocolate treats. I’d start pulling out the butter and sugar, and then stop. I’d actually talk out loud to myself, “What am I doing?” and more importantly, “Why am I doing this?”

Often times I could trace the answers to an unsatisfied emotional need rather than a physical need. I was experiencing some type of stressful life situation, and reverting back to old habits was easy and comforting. More often than not, I could stop myself before eating a food I didn’t need, and really didn’t want. I stopped sabotaging myself by learning to recognize the pattern, and training myself to make a different choice.

I realized that when I started to sabotage my own efforts to get healthy, the only person I was hurting was myself. I also acknowledged that it wasn’t about the food, but about the behavior. Just like any other bad habit, I worked on breaking this habit by recognition, diversion, and diligence. I recognized when I was making a bad choice, diverted myself by finding another activity to do, and diligently practiced changing. I knew I wasn’t hurting my weight loss efforts on purpose, so I didn’t beat myself up about it. I just worked really hard at breaking the habit.

You may not ever do this to yourself, but if you do, be encouraged that you can stop. Self-sabotage in any form isn’t healthy, and when you are talking about food choices, the consequences go beyond just the number on the scale. Today, if you find yourself overindulging for “no good reason” try focusing on something else, and diverting your attention to a person or project that is life affirming.

What are your thoughts on self-sabotage?  Diane

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Comments

  1. I agree that self sabotage is a comfort thing. We get our feelings hurt, we are mad or just want to make ourselves feel better. I also think that it is easier to fall into self sabotage if we restrict our calories too much, allow ourselves to become too hungry so it makes it easier to think “I deserve this, I gotta have it” instead of stopping and thinking about the situation clearly.

  2. “Often times I could trace the answers to an unsatisfied emotional need rather than a physical need. I was experiencing some type of stressful life situation, and reverting back to old habits was easy and comforting. More often than not, I could stop myself before eating a food I didn’t need, and really didn’t want. I stopped sabotaging myself by learning to recognize the pattern, and training myself to make a different choice.

    “I realized that when I started to sabotage my own efforts to get healthy, the only person I was hurting was myself. I also acknowledged that it wasn’t about the food, but about the behavior. Just like any other bad habit, I worked on breaking this habit by recognition, diversion, and diligence. I recognized when I was making a bad choice, diverted myself by finding another activity to do, and diligently practiced changing. I knew I wasn’t hurting my weight loss efforts on purpose, so I didn’t beat myself up about it. I just worked really hard at breaking the habit.”

    Most excellent paragraphs. My therapist has spent a lot of time working with me on Neuropathways/loops and habits. She had me read Jill Bolte Taylor’s MY STROKE OF INSIGHT as part of this process. At first glance it does not appear a book about a woman who had a stroke would relate to us, but it does.

    I think one of the biggest obstacles in working with our loops is waiting for the perfect day. As life’s difficulties arise, we think we are making things easier for ourselves “by not worrying out our diet until things are going better.” First of all, I hate the word “diet” and second of all, we live each day as it presents itself. There is no magic day.

  3. So many forms of self-sabotage Diane – I hear ya on this one.. my worst one is negative self-talk. I am so much better but I still fight it…
    Jody – Fit at 54 recently posted…Do You Feel It? Supplements & Your ThoughtsMy Profile

  4. This is a tough one for me. It seems I have zero willpower at times and my weakness is chocolate and sweets. Combine that with emotional eating and it spells bad news. Lately I’ve been trying the “if you really want it, only have a little” trick. Basically, if there is something I’m craving that I know is not the best choice I will tell myself to wait 30 minutes. If I still want it, and I’ve otherwise made good diet decisions that day, then I will allow myself one or 2 bites. The key is portioning it out ahead of time so that I truly stop after 2 bites. Today I was craving a donut. I bought one (a long john) and then realized that was a bad move. So I ate my healthy breakfast and now I’m waiting. If I truly still want it later, I’ll cut off a small piece and put the rest away. I still satisfy my sweet tooth without derailing my diet.
    Love your website – always full of great posts and ideas to help me stay on track!
    Sarah T. recently posted…New AdditionsMy Profile

  5. Great post! I can definitely relate. Most of the time I’m fine, but every so often I just can’t get enough chocolate. Usually I just chalk it up to a bad day and move on, but maybe I should be paying more attention to how I’m feeling and why I’m doing it.
    Krissy recently posted…How Dieting Makes People ObeseMy Profile

  6. Once I start to eat chocolate I can’t stop until its all gone. I even buy the mini bars thinking that I will eat less but I think I eat more. I try not to have these in the house.

  7. Thanks for the timely post. I just spent 3 days in self sabotage…. The words are well received.

  8. I’m not sure there’s anything quite as self-defeating as sabotaging our own best efforts. There have been so many times when I think I’ve erected a wall to ward off my worst inner demons only to see them easily scamper around, over, under or right through the damn thing. This thing is hard enough with the world working against you… when you can’t get your own self to cooperate, it’s impossible.
    Jack Sh*t recently posted…This or That? – A "Snack with Jack" ExclusiveMy Profile

  9. I think self sabotage is important indication of why we use food in the first place. I think the majority of overweight individuals struggle subconsciously use weight as a barrier from the outside world. For example, an individual might use his/her weight to deflect attention from the opposite sex due to previous negative experiences. Even though we hate the weight, we use the weight to protect us and self sabotage is another way we try to protect ourselves. Losing weight is scary. We’re becoming a new person and it’s uncertain who that new person will be. Identifying why we are doing what behaviors helps us resolve the real issues behind our food and weight issues. It’s never just the food. The food behavior is just a symptom of the underlying problem.

  10. What a timely post! I am, unfortunately, the queen of self-sabotage, and I don’t want to admit it when it’s actually happening like over the past week. Stress definitely brings it on, and I go into “it’s okay, it’s okay” mode with everything I put into my mouth, and purposefully don’t want to think about it because I know that if I think about it, I wouldn’t do certain things. I agree, though, that it’s worth taking the time to think about it and check yourself before it gets to the point where you are hurting yourself much more than you are actually comforting yourself. Thanks for another thought-provoking post, Diane!
    I ❤ 2 Eat recently posted…When It Rains in Texas…My Profile

  11. It applies to other things, I think — things that change the way we see ourselves or that may change the way others see us. When we make a big shift in identity like that, I think it’s scary sometimes. Maybe we wonder, what if we go through all this, and life isn’t a perfect fantasy when we get to the end? What then? What if someone we care about doesn’t like the New Us? What if we get fabulous and then people start to notice us? Scary! What if we try as hard as we can and it’s not enough? There’s lots of things that can make it easier to stay where we are rather than move forward. And it goes for more than weight loss — it goes for most things in life that get us out of our comfort zone or that make our vision of who we are change, to ourselves and others.

  12. Oh yes, I’ve succumbed to this before, and even fairly recently. You’re right that figuring out what the underlying issues are is key to managing it or derailing it in the first place. Recognize the pattern and abort before it even gets started. Over the years I have gotten better at this, but it’s still not 100%.

  13. There is no question that this goes on. Usually from some fear often due to some terrible experience from our past I imagine. I suppose I’ve done it to myself although I don’t think I realized it at the time. Maybe I’m still doing it. One of the things that I think has made me successful is that I am a doer and do not analyze the whys and why nots of it all. When I needed to lose weight, I just did it, I didn’t spend all my time thnking about why I needed to or why I was fat, I just did the diet and exercise thing until it became a habit. Maybe when I;m old and bored, I’ll try to figure it all out :-)
    Dr. J recently posted…Test-Driving Color Me Rad: Colorful Fun RunMy Profile

  14. I am the queen of self-sabotage. I’ve been doing it for years, and I notice I am more likely to do it after a period of “being good” – where I’ve lost weight or achieved an exercise goal. It is like I am running away from success. I wonder if I am afraid of losing weight and being at a normal size – after all, I’ve never been there before. I’ve been overweight all my life, even as a child, so I don’t know how to be thin. I think somewhere deep in my mind, I’m afraid I’ll lose myself in the process of losing weight. That’s something I will have to work through as a move forward from here.

  15. My feelings are that if you don’t get at the root causes, you will probably continue to self-sabotage. That said, it is also very much about creating those new neuro pathways to change behavior. Very much a both/and scenario.

    A note about distraction: a lot of people use food to distract themselves from their emotions…and when they decide to stop using food, they find other ways to distract themselves, both from food and their emotions. It’s only when we focus on and acknowledge our feelings that we’re able to let them flow through us, and we move on.
    KCLAnderson (Karen) recently posted…Of Chocolate Cake And Green BeansMy Profile

  16. I do that a lot less now than I used to. I KNOW that when a box of my favorite goodies (baddies?) goes into my cart that it’s not really for the grandkids. Lately, I can usually resist putting the box in my cart, or, even if it jumps into my cart, I take it out before I go to the checkout line. If I’m feeling deprived, I rely on a strategy of allowing myself another indulgence instead–a new copy of WW magazine, a new kitchen gadget (I got an oxo cherry pitter and I love it!), or even a pricy piece of fruit that I would otherwise skip (kiwi, anyone?).
    Tish recently posted…What I Did on My Summer VacationMy Profile

  17. Boy does this go right along with these past two weeks for me! I even thought while eating the ice cream last week and the donut last night that I was sabotaging myself. Then I would think “no I deserve a treat once in a while.” I have come to realize that the difference for me is if I keep the treat under control or if I over-indulge. I’m happy to say that last week and last night I think I kept it to a treat and not a sabotage!
    Rachelle recently posted…Week in ReviewMy Profile

  18. I wish, I wish, I wish that I didn’t think about things so much, that I didn’t like sugar so much, and that I could finally flick that switch off that ties my emotions to food. Someday…
    Lori recently posted…The PretenderMy Profile

  19. I loved reading this! I have halt written on my fridge. Am I there for hunger, anger, loneliness or tired? It helps!