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Four Ways to Stop the Self-Sabotaging Behavior Today

happy fit woman
by megan dahlman
May 3, 2022

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“Self-sabotage” is a common phrase that we throw around a lot, especially when we know that we’re struggling to make forward progress toward our goals. I can’t tell you how many moms I coach that tell me, “I know exactly what I should be doing, I just can’t seem to make it happen every day.” And usually the reason for this is that they’re sabotaging themselves...they’re hindering their own efforts and preventing their own success.

In fact, I have a friend that really struggles to make healthy choices. She has battled her weight for years, but not only that, she just can’t get into a rhythm of regular exercise and consistently healthy food choices. And almost every week, I see her doing something that’s deliberately sabotaging her own mission. And because of that, she is constantly frustrated. She bounces from one diet to the next...one workout program to the next...never settling on anything, and ultimately feeling like a failure.

Now, there are MANY reasons why you might struggle with motivation and consistency with your fitness and nutrition routine, but self-sabotage is a BIG one. So, today I’m going to highlight some of the ways that we commonly sabotage our own efforts and stand in the way of our success. And then I want to go through 4 Ways that you can begin to stop this cycle of self-sabotaging behavior, starting today.

This is so important for you for two reasons:

  1. You could be self-sabotaging and have no idea you’re doing this, just spinning in circles and wondering why you’re not making any progress at all.
  2. You might know that you self-sabotage, but have no clue how to stop the cycle

This conversation is going to bring these behaviors to the surface and help you overcome them, SO THAT you can finally have the breakthrough that you want with your body. Because think of this for a moment: What’s your mission? Just like that soldier who had a mission, you’re most likely on a mission right now. Whether that’s to simply maintain your current level of health and fitness and strength, or something bigger. Maybe you’re staring at a mountain that needs to be moved - your mission feels huge. You have 50 pounds or more that you want to lose, or your body is constantly in pain, or your habits always feel out of control and the idea of gaining some sense self-control feels impossible.

Whatever your mission is RIGHT NOW with your body, you’ll never achieve it if you’re self-sabotaging, if you’re standing in your own way.

What is Sabotage?

Sabotage = deliberately destroying, damaging, or obstruct and blocking something from happening

Self-sabotage = when this destructive behavior is directed at yourself, and you’re deliberately preventing yourself from accomplishing what you desire

  • When your negative habits consistently undermine your efforts
  • Think of it like standing on the edge of a wide open, beautiful field and before you walk across it, you throw a bunch of landmines, barbed wire fencing, and snipers out there, and then you go.
  • When you picture it like that, the idea sounds pretty insane, but we do this! You’re probably doing this right now!

Common ways that we self-sabotage

There are 4 main ways that we might be self-sabotaging:

Procrastination and putting tasks off - You might dream of doing something great, something significant, but you keep putting it off and never get around to doing anything about it.

  • Here’s an example: You sign up for a workout program and even download the routines, but they’re still sitting on your computer completely untouched, you never get around to it. Just the act of registering felt momentous (which it was, it took some courage to sign up and say you need it), but after you signed up you just keep putting it off.

Grinding to a halt - After you get the ball rolling and things are going pretty well, the brakes slam on all of a sudden for no apparent reason - you completely grind to a halt or give up all together

  • Example: After two weeks into your new routine, you freak out for some reason and give up all together. There’s some self-talk that’s going on in your mind that’s saying “I can’t do this anymore...I’m probably going to fail anyway.”
  • This reminds me of a my son, Peter, when he’s playing soccer (which he hates, by the way). He’ll be out in the game, playing just fine, and then all of a sudden he’ll freak out and want to get pulled out of the game. We all look at him like he’s crazy, saying “But you were doing great! What happened?”

You deliberately put yourself in harm’s way - this is like throwing those landmines right in your path. Instead of taking the clear, simple, doable route, you deliberately make it extremely hard on yourself and almost impossible to succeed

  • Example: baking your absolute favorite brownies with your kids every single week thinking that you have enough willpower, or not packing a healthy lunch for work knowing there’s a fast food restaurant around the corner and thinking today just might be the day you’ll resist, or planning on doing workouts that are way too hard and intense for you, or committing to working out 5 or 6 days a week
  • This is putting yourself in literally the most difficult situation and expecting yourself to survive - yeah, probably not going to happen

At the first sign of difficulty or feelings of imperfection, you run in the complete opposite direction, making illogical choices for no real reason

  • Example: You eat a snack that’s less than perfect, that snack you said you wouldn’t have, so you throw in the towel and abandon your eating habits completely. You completely overreact and get dramatic about it.
  • This reminds me of a little girl that is trying to draw a picture of a horse, and she knows it’s not looking perfect, and so all of a sudden she just scribbles all over it and turns it into a complete mess.

Those are the big ways that I see women self-sabotaging. But I think it’s so helpful to understand that Self-sabotage is almost always driven by negative self talk, where you tell yourself that you're inadequate, or unworthy of success. And in the back of your mind, you might be thinking things like, "You can't do this!" "You  don't deserve this...you don’t deserve to love your body and feel good.” or "If you try, you'll probably just fail anyway."

So, the big question now is how do stop this? How can you stop this cycle so you can actually accomplish what you set out to do?

4 Ways to Stop the Self-Sabotaging Behavior Today

Be aware and recognize when you’re doing it. Knowing the main ways that you hinder your own progress is huge. You have to see when you’re doing it, and catch yourself. If you’re procrastinating again, or grinding to a halt for no real reason, or making it way harder on yourself than necessary or, scribbling all over your imperfect efforts again... wake up and see what it that you’re doing.

  1. Change the conversation in your head in that moment.

Make sure that your expectations are clear and that you have a doable plan that’s not too difficult to follow. The harder the routine, the more likely you’ll be to self sabotage.

  1. In fact, make your daily habits so easy that it’s almost impossible to self-sabotage them.
  2. In both my TNR and JS30 programs, I make the first nutrition habit that we focus on so easy that it’s completely impossible to sabotage.

Have accountability - someone to show up and make sure you’re still moving forward, regardless of the mental obstacles you’re throwing in your own way.

  1. This can be a friend, your husband, or even a coach like me.
  2. Be open and honest with them about how you self-sabotage

Finally, be sure to turn around every so often and recognize when you overcame a self-sabotaging moment - celebrate that victory! And let it continue to propel you forward, proof that you are able to do hard things!

  1. We simply do NOT use this powerful tactic enough. When we’re in the middle of a really challenging mission, it’s hard to stop and celebrate when you feel like you haven’t really gotten anywhere.
  2. But if you can celebrate every step forward, especially if you didn’t sabotage yourself on that step, you’ll have the motivation to keep going.

Some more examples...

I used to self-sabotage. I didn’t realize I was doing it, but looking back I can see it now.

My preferred tactic was deliberately putting myself in harm’s way. I would try to eat barely anything during the day...really small meals to try and lean up... and I would do a pretty good job in the morning and through lunch. But then every single day, I’d lose it around 5:00. I’d be so ravenously hungry that I would eat a massive snack, a big unhealthy dinner, and then have dessert later on.

I made it so incredibly difficult on myself and impossible to succeed.

But once I recognized that’s what I was doing, I loosened up...I let go a little. I made a better effort to eat more during the front half of the day and lower my perfect expectations. And I was able to change the conversation in my head - when I felt myself trying to restrict in the morning, I could remind myself, “Nope, don’t do it. You’re just sabotaging yourself.”

That really, really helped.

The big takeaway is...

The big idea here is that whatever your mission is RIGHT NOW with your body, you’ll never achieve it if you’re self-sabotaging, if you’re standing in your own way.

Your action steps now are to get out of your own way and stop hindering yourself from making forward progress. Start to recognize what you’re doing and when you do it...right it down. And then change your expectations, get the accountability you need, and be sure to celebrate every little step forward.

Now, I actually want to hear from you.

What is one way that you’ve been self-sabotaging recently? I’d love to know what it is, and also, how you’re going to stop doing this. So go ahead and reach out to me on Instagram @megandahlman , or you can hit reply to any email I send you and your message will go straight to my inbox. I’d love to hear from you, I really would.

More Resources

Total Nutrition Reset - reset your eating habits and establish healthy food choices for life in just 30 days!

FREE! - Download my free report on the Three Eating Dangers to Avoid to Reset Your Eating Habits

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Trainer, nutrition coach, and Christian mom — in a culture that’s obsessed with “gym-selfies” and a number on the scale, I’m passionate about helping moms discover what it feels like to actually love their bodies and thrive in them.
Read More About Megan
Hi! I’m Megan.
Self-Care Simplified is for Christian moms that want to be equipped and encouraged to take simple steps towards the healthy life you want for yourself and the people you love.
Be sure to subscribe to Self-Care Simplified wherever you listen to your favorite podcast.
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Trainer, nutrition coach, and Christian mom — in a culture that’s obsessed with “gym-selfies” and a number on the scale, I’m passionate about helping moms discover what it feels like to actually love their bodies and thrive in them.
Read More About Megan
Hi! I’m Megan.
take the quiz
Self-Care Simplified is for Christian moms that want to be equipped and encouraged to take simple steps towards the healthy life you want for yourself and the people you love.
Be sure to subscribe to Self-Care Simplified wherever you listen to your favorite podcast.
RECENT posts