Everyone does it.
Everyone feels horrible about it.
Everyone wants to stop it.
As someone who has coached countless people to achieve their weight loss goals, I can tell you that for most of us, self-sabotage is part and parcel of the process of losing weight. Which is why I wanted to help you better understand your self-sabotaging behaviour, where it comes from and how you can actually overcome it.
WHY WE SELF-SABOTAGE
For the majority of us, we love playing it safe and staying in our comfort zone. We aren’t great when it comes to change. Which is why, when we try to lose weight, our minds will do whatever it takes to keep us where we are, hence we engage in self-sabotaging behaviours and habits that keep us ‘stuck’.
The most interesting thing is that when we look at our self-sabotaging bad habits, we tend to see them as something that we deal with today, but the truth is, we actually developed them long ago. Back then, whether as children, teenagers or young adults, these behaviours served a purpose (comfort, reward, etc.), and the patterns of those particular habits continue because they serve those same purposes for us, today.
For example, think back to your earliest memories as a child. When you were sad, was food used as a source of comfort? When you did well at something like a test – was food used as a means of celebration? If we were taught at an early age that these conditions in our lives meant that food was the response, it’s only natural for us to continue these patterns.
So when we begin a new journey to a healthier lifestyle, as we try to break free of old habits and build new ones, our mind is going to interject and come up with excuses, scenarios and justifications to try to sway us from that. Why? because it wants us to stay where we are, relying on old habits and behaviours because it’s what we’ve been doing for years (sometimes since childhood).
HOW TO BREAK FREE OF SELF-SABOTAGING BEHAVIOURS
The trick to breaking out of the self-sabotaging trap is two fold:
The first, is to clearly identify the self-sabotaging behaviours that we want to stop. Next, to examine the sequence of events that lead up to the bad habit so that we can understand what our ‘triggers’ are (stress, sadness, etc.) and put steps in place to stop us from using these habits as a response.
Here’s an example of how to chart a self-sabotaging behaviour:
Self-sabotaging behaviour: Binge eating after work.
- Stress caused by my boss/client/work environment > Feeling of disempowerment, lack of self-worth, undervalued, creates nervousness/anxiety, concern for my job > come home and can’t stop eating ice cream to comfort myself.
Using the above example as a starting point, trace your self-sabotaging habit from the initial trigger, to the feelings that it causes and how that manifests in terms of your sabotaging behaviour. By doing this, we can see how our self-sabotaging behaviour begins and how it plays out. From there, we can begin to create an awareness around when we feel triggered and work to help sooth ourselves in different ways without the reliance on our bad habit.
FORGIVENESS IS KEY
The last step to this process, is acceptance and forgiveness, which is a crucial to overcoming these behaviours. The reason being is that the post-self-sabotaging punishment that typically takes place after these instances is a large part of the self-sabotage cycle. The process of ‘punishing’ ourselves after the incident can not only extend the timeframe in which we engage in the behaviour by making us feel like ‘we’ve already gone this far, we might as well keep going’ but it can alternatively make us feel so bad that we convince ourselves that we should give up our goals altogether.
By showing ourselves compassion and forgiveness in these instances, we’re able to acknowledge what we’ve done and move past it without getting stuck in the cycle and continuing the behaviour.
Ultimately, if self-sabotaging behaviours are holding you back from achieving your goals and you want to stop them, it’s important to identify their source (stress at work) and work to resolve your response to that (talking to your boss, setting boundaries, etc.) instead of just thinking that you need to address the actual behaviour itself (not buying ice cream so that you can stop coming home and eating it) as that only offers a temporary band-aid solution and won’t help you break out of the cycle long-term.
I hope you’ve found this post helpful and if you struggle with self-sabotaging behaviour, know that you’re not alone. Email me and let me know what your biggest challenges are when it comes to staying on track firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s put together a plan to help you overcome it!