Why We Sabotage Ourselves (And How To Stop Doing It)


Do you say you want to lose weight and get healthy and then do all kinds of things that prevent that from happening? Self-sabotage is the root of most failed efforts to adopt healthier habits. The obvious question you may be asking is “Why do we sabotage ourselves?” It doesn’t seem to make sense that we would do things to deliberately prevent ourselves from getting what we say we want, and yet this is exactly what we do!

The mastermind behind self sabotage is in fact fear--fear that we are inadequate, fear that we’ll fail, fear of judgement from others.  How do we sabotage ourselves? We tell ourselves stories.  And then we believe them!  

Once you become aware of these self-sabotaging stories, it gets harder and harder to talk yourself out of making stronger, healthier choices. Here’s a list of some of the top self-sabotaging stories we tell ourselves, and the truth behind each one. You probably already know these truths or have your own equally valid truths.  But it’s always good to have a reminder...

Story #1. “It’s too hard.”

We commit to getting back on track with our health and our weight. And before we know it, we’re slipping further away from our goal.  We tell ourselves, “I’ll fail anyway, so what’s he point?”  We’re don’t feel up to the task. Maybe we’ve tried and failed before--and the odds seem too far stacked against us. We don’t have it in us, we don’t have the willpower. We’re not like those “other” people who make it look easy.

The truth is that living in a body you’re not comfortable with is way harder than what it’s going to take to make changes. There’s no doubt that taking better care of ourselves can be inconvenient and take some effort, but that doesn’t hold a candle to how hard life is when we’re trapped in behavior and situations that are keeping us stuck.  The only way we’ll ever succeed is If we give ourselves permission to believe we can make those changes.

Story #2. “People will judge me.”
Maybe you’ve tried a bunch of diets only to return to your previous weight or more. The people in your life have seen this. They’ve seen you try--and fail. Having them see you go through the effort one more time seems like putting yourself on display to be ridiculed and doubted.

The truth is that yes those “others” may have their doubts. But so what? This is not their life. So they can have their thoughts and you can have yours.  Ultimately you are the one living your life in your body.  You’re the one living with the consequences of your thoughts and actions.

Story #3. “I know I need to do this, but not today.”
How many times have we said we’d start on New Year’s or on Monday or the first of the month? How many ‘last weekends’ have we had?

The truth is, we all know what happens when we wait until the perfect time.  When we truly want to do something, we begin now.

Story #4. “I don’t have enough money.”
Maybe you tell yourself, “I can’t afford to do this” --that healthy food will cost too much.  

The truth is that when we create priorities--when decide what is most important to us, we find a way to make it happen.  

Story #5. “I don’t have enough time.”
Do you tell yourself you don’t have time in your life to make healthy food? That you’re too busy and have too much going on in your life to do what it takes?

The truth is...see truth #4.

Story #6.  “I’m too old.”
This is the story our culture tells us is true.  Once you hit 40 it’s all downhill.  Efforts at weight loss will be wasted.  Weight gain and health problems are inevitable. Chronic illness is normal.

The truth is this is a complete lie! These outcomes are not inevitable. Is weight loss somewhat more challenging after 40? Maybe, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t completely doable.  The truth is we have way more control over our weight and our health than we think.  With the right information and support anyone is capable of making healthy change happen.

Story #7. “I’ve already blown it.”
This is a classic story we’ve all told ourselves at one point or another. We make one slip up and assume it’s a lost cause. “I messed up so I may as well eat what I want the rest of the day!”

The truth is a slip only becomes a bigger deal when we let it. It becomes insignificant when we get right back on track.

Story #8. “I’ll lose my identity.”
This is the big “fear of change” story.  If I change this about myself (how I eat-- and consequently how I look), who will I be? Even if things are hard now, at least they’re familiar.  Who will I be if I dropped my excuses and started making stronger choices?

The truth is the food you eat does not define you. Life is change. You are changing and evolving regardless.  Do you want those changes to be in the direction of health and balance or of continuing to feel more stuck?

Story #9: “It won’t work for me.”
So many stories fit in this category.  “I won’t be able to do this forever, the sacrifice is too big, I’m not like those ‘other’ people who were able to succeed, there’s something wrong with me that will prevent me from succeeding (my DNA, my family history, my lack of willpower...).

The truth is that vibrant health is your nature.  Even if you’ve tried and failed before. Even if it seems impossible. We weren’t born to be overweight and unhealthy.  Our ancestors enjoyed lean, healthy bodies. Our DNA hasn’t changed much.  You may have more of a predisposition toward weight gain and/or disease, but that doesn’t translate into being overweight or unhealthy.

These are all stories. 

They’re the stories that keep us stuck.  The stories that keep us from ever making a start. These stories are birthed out of fear. Looking at our evolutionary path, fear is a natural, normal response that comes out of our instinct for self-preservation.  “Watch out for the tiger! Bear! Cliff...!” All those scary things out there that could harm us were real.  Our more recent fears, not so much.

"A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that's unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push." - Ludwig Wittgenstein

When you hear your story playing in your head, the first step is to remember that it’s just a story.  Ask yourself:

What is the story I’m telling myself?
Where is this story coming from?
What the fear that lies behind this story?

When you start to name these things, the story loses it’s power.  What’s cool is that you can change your story at any time. 

You get to choose your story.  

Which of these stories has been keeping you stuck lately?
What story will you choose next?