How to finally stop self-sabotaging your weight loss

How to stop self-sabotage in weight loss

Today we are talking about a little friend we all share. Well, let’s not call it a FRIEND — it’s more like a familiar PRESENCE in our life. You know it. I KNOW that I know it. We have all had our run-ins with it.  I’m talking about SELF-SABOTAGE. 

I bet you’ve been there. You’re going along, crushing your plan, making progress, and this old “friend” rears its ugly, nasty little head.

Self-sabotage comprises the actions or inactions we take that keep us from reaching our goals. It’s not the same as mistakes. With self-sabotage, we’re deciding to do/not do something that supports our progress; we KNOW that if we do (or skip) the thing, it will set us back. But somehow, we convince ourselves that it’s ok.

Often, these things start as a thought or “temptation.” Next thing you know, you’re doing mental gymnastics to convince yourself and go for it. To be crystal clear, mental gymnastics can look like:

  • Rationalizing that decision.
  • Justifying why you’re making the choice.
  • Convincing yourself that it’s NOT a big deal.
  • Negotiating with yourself – even when you know you won’t really hold your end of the deal.

Most times, you’ll do the thing and feel GREAT… for a little bit. Because self-sabotaging behavior is USUALLY taken in the pursuit of immediate gratification. And we all know that to reach our goals, we have to be willing to look past the temptation of the small, immediate reward to achieve the much bigger, better reward.

When you see it like this, so plain and simple, it’s easy to ask, “WHY do we do that?” Why, no matter how hard we try, can we NOT stop self-sabotaging?

At its core, there are three main reasons why we keep messing up our own plans.

The force of habit can drive self-sabotage in weight loss

The FIRST reason self-sabotage happens is that the action we are removing is HABITUAL for us. It is usually our habitual reponse to uncomfortable emotions like sadness, anger, stress, or boredom.

So, as long as we are feeling the GOOD emotions of life, we can push through. We can see past the cookie (or whatever) to what’s waiting on the other side. But when the inevitable “BAD” emotions in life pop in, there’s a way that we are USED to coping with those. Surprise surprise, the coping tool that we have USED — food, alcohol, insert your thing here — is the pattern that we have formed.

It becomes a habit loop, which is DIFFICULT to break. but it can be done.

There are three elements that form a habit LOOP: A cue, a response, and a reward.

Let’s say when you were 3, you fell and skinned your knee. You were in pain — probably a mix of physical and emotional. That was the cue. Let’s say your parent ran to you and saw you skinned your knee, poor thing. Here, let’s have some ice cream to feel better.

There are many reasons why you felt better: 

  • The oxytocin you released at the physical closeness of your parent showing concern.
  • Time passed and the pain faded away
  • The ice cream.

But as a 3-year-old, you don’t understand that. You think the ice cream did it because it was a surprise. It was unique and special… and it tasted good. That was NICE and rewarding. so you LEARNED that ice cream makes you feel better when you are in pain.

Another way to overcome discomfort

Now, let’s say that the parent had NOT given the ice cream. Instead, you were upset, so they scooped you up, snuggled you and told you they would sit here with you until you were able to calm your breathing and relax your body again. You would still get the oxytocin release, time would still pass and the pain would fade, and you would still FEEL better. You would start to learn that the cure for upset is closeness to others who support you while you work through it, and time. Because we know that hard times pass. 

This habit loop has been engrained in us since we were toddlers. Now, it shows up as, I’m upset, so let’s pull up the delivery app and indulge in takeout because I DESERVE it. I KNOW that I have dinner in the fridge, but this PIZZA will HEAL my pain. And breaking that habit loop is going to take a diligent effort. But if you ever want to get PAST being stuck, you will have to work on it.

These habitual behaviors are so difficult to let go of because they are what you use to cope with emotional upset. They served a function, helping you regulate and cope with uncomfortable emotions.

The process is not just, hey you, remove that behavior, NOW. That is a little bit cruel. That habit was put in place not as a way to HARM you, but to help you regulate your emotions. You put it there in an effort to HELP yourself. In a way, you are self-medicating. So, if you want to break this habit, you have to put something ELSE in its place. 

Eating out of boredom can derail your weight loss

Another common example of self-sabotage for weight loss is eating out of boredom. The cue is “I’m bored,” and the response is food. The reward is not being bored anymore because you found a fun way to entertain yourself. I mean, put your hand up if you baked cakes and sourdough during the pandemic…

To stop eating out of boredom, we need to build a NEW loop to happen when we get bored. What is an ACTION that you can put in INSTEAD of eating that will feel rewarding?

If you did The Reset with me, you already know that building a new habit takes some time. Because at first, it’s not going to scratch the itch like we are USED to because it isn’t our FAMILIAR way of doing things, so the reward doesn’t feel as nice. At this point, you have built a new ROUTINE to replace that old habit. Now, you just have to repeat that routine over and over and over, so that your brain will build a new auto-response and that NEW thing eventually becomes a HABIT. It feels JUST as comforting as the food did. It is LITERALLY how your brain works.

Low self-confidence is a huge cause of self-sabotage

The THIRD reason I see people self-sabotage their weight loss is kind of a doozy. It’s sort of the “I know better but I don’t DO better because I lack self-confidence… my self-esteem is low.”

Many times when you doubt yourself, it’s easier to STICK to the behaviors you already have than to do what you know is right. Stepping out of your comfort zone to achieve that goal for your higher self is scary as heck. The thing is, this becomes a vicious cycle in your weight loss journey. You don’t have the confidence to do what you need, so you stick to your old habit, and that confirms that you “can’t” do the thing, and your confidence dips even more.

We are MORE likely to engage in behaviors that don’t serve us when we don’t have confidence in OURSELVES. We might KNOW that we need to replace the habit, but that requires hard work, and I have never been able to do that before… so I probably can’t do it NOW either. People with low self-esteem engage in self-sabotage WAY more frequently.

The impact of higher self-confidence on weight loss success

I did several Zooms on self-confidence, and it can be summed up like this:

  • You GET your self-esteem living in reality (not in your head). 
  • You decide to get OUT of your head, and take personal responsibility for your actions (we stop sweeping things under the rug, stop pretending your actions aren’t hurting you, stop blaming anyone else for them, stop feeling like a victim to them)
  • Then, you get OUT of the head and start DOING the things that you say you are going to do.

You will not be able to show me a HAPPIER, MORE CONFIDENT person than the one who broke a lifelong habit that was keeping them stuck. I see it ALL The time. I see the pain and struggle in the beginning, but I watch as the weeks pass, and they KEEP IT UP and they BREAK THROUGH. You can FEEL the confidence, the self-esteem. It’s PALPABLE because you REALIZE you can do hard things, and it encourages you to do MORE hard things when you FINALLY get to see your goals come to fruition because you ACTED. Action will bring the confidence that you are looking for.

You’re doing the same when you find that replacement for the soothing ice cream. You’re in a place of discomfort, feeling emotional and physical pain because you’re letting go of things that no longer serve you. 

As your coaches, we are trying to teach you how to get through discomfort differently so you can finally stop self-sabotaging your weight loss. It’s not about another numbing tool – instead, it’s time to learn how to sit in the discomfort and overcome it through DIFFERENT behaviors, and see that the moment DOES pass and that you WILL come out so much stronger and more resilient.

Some people self-sabotage their weight loss out of fear

If we KNOW the habit needs to be rewired, and we know we are the one who has to do it, and we KNOW that if we do it our life will be better, why can some of us STILL not make that happen?


Look at all the ways fear can drive your self-sabotage:

  • You experience the fear of FAILING or not doing it perfectly.
  • Or the fear of messing up at all, because God forbid you mess up and someone sees it.
  • Maybe you’re afraid to CHANGE or MISS OUT.
  • Fear of being uncomfortable.
  • Lastly, fear of SUCCESS. Yep.

Fear is a powerful FEELING that lives in your HEAD. It is a product of your thoughts, and our thoughts are how we manifest what we BELIEVE. 

If you FEAR messing up you’ve internalized that everything should be done perfectly and right the first time. That is not REALITY, so what happens when you mess something up ONCE, you QUIT. You can’t accept that, so you stop trying altogether.

If you fear being uncomfortable, you believe somewhere inside that growth should feel comfortable, that discomfort is some terrible thing. It’s not. It’s momentary and it passes. Ask yourself if your comfort zone is really all that comfortable at all. You may find that it’s really just familiar to you.

Look in the mirror and ask yourself, do you fear success?

You may have a belief built around the “kind of person” that someone who is successful in that area is, and you don’t want to be like them.

Ask yourself where that belief comes from.  If it is about weight loss, did you grow up in a house where your mom struggled with HER weight, so she made comments about women who were in shape? Maybe they were selfish, they didn’t ever have fun, or they were conceited.

If this is what you believe about a fit person, why would you want to BECOME one?  You know?

You know, oftentimes, the people who were part of building our habit loop with food, would ALSO talk A LOT about weight around us, and the messaging is so conflicting and confusing when we are young and it creates a lot of damage. 

You may not fear the success itself, but you may fear that taking the actions that lead to success will be bad for you. Someone in your peer group or on social media may have made comments about how if you are logging your food, weighing yourself, and NOT engaging in an “all foods fit” approach, you are going to become TOXIC. WHO would want to be toxic?

You may resist bc you are afraid that doing those things, even for just a period of time as you LEARN and reset your behavior patterns, is inherently toxic somehow.    

Ask yourself questions about where those beliefs come from and if they are even true.

Are those behaviors disordered in themselves? Or are they education and learning tools for where you are in your journey right NOW? Are they just on a different path and have different goals than you do RIGHT NOW?

Fear happens in your head, not in reality. So one way to overcome it is to LEARN the REALITY behind what you fear. Why would you suddenly become conceited by losing weight? Wouldn’t it just be the same you – a few pounds lighter? With more energy? Happier and more confident?

6 questions to stop self-sabotaging your weight loss

I have homework for you. Keep these three reasons for self-sabotaging your weight loss in the back of your mind and NOTICE the instances and thoughts that usually lead to your self-sabotage. QUESTION the situation, don’t just go for it and feel guilty after. QUESTION the situation, and ask yourself the following questions:

  • WHY do I keep doing this?
  • How do I expect it to make me feel?
  • Am I afraid of messing up?
  • Do I not know another way to regulate my emotions?
  • Am I bored?
  • Is this starting to feel too challenging?

The point is NOT to judge or shame yourself, but to UNDERSTAND where it’s coming from and how to overcome it.

The more you engage in self-sabotage, the more overwhelmed you will feel. How about we change that?

MYLF Coaching takes an integrated approach to weight loss. Our coaches work with YOU to figure out what you want to achieve, and most importantly, WHY that matters to you. And together, we create a plan and give you the practical tools and knowledge to go from point A to point B and STAY in point B.

Book a consultation now to learn more about how MYLF Coaching works and whether it is right for you.

Master Your Life. Forever.

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