Are You Self-Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Efforts? — Half of Gabby
Okay we all know how it works. You go on a diet, you lose a couple pounds, then you hit a wall, and then you quit. Or maybe you lost 30 pounds and you were happy at that, but then six months later you’ve gained 15 of it back.
Or maybe as many times as you’ve tried to even start, you can really never get going. I could go on forever with the or maybes and come up with a ton of different scenarios but they all end the same… weight loss journeys that never succeed.
Why? I mean with all the efforts that we've all put in for years and years, why aren’t there more success stories?
Think about it. How many people in your life do you know who've tried to lose weight? I bet a lot. But just for shits and giggles, let’s say you only know a few. If everybody that walks the planet knows just one or two people who've tried and failed at losing weight, well, uh that’s a lot of friggin people!
So why do almost all of us fail?
Okay I hear you. Eating right and exercising is hard. Staying away from brownies is hard. Exercising instead of making love to a sleeve of Oreos while watching Netflix is hard.
But come on! It’s not so hard that 90% of people who start a weight loss journey can’t finish it. Seriously, it’s not that fucking hard.
More than just 10% of the people who try to lose weight should realistically be able to achieve it. But they don’t.
Well there are thousands of reasons and combinations of reasons as to why. Some people have physical reasons. Maybe health issues prevent them from being able to exercise. Then you have the plethora of emotional reasons.
Perhaps some find it safe to hide behind the weight. Others may not want to attract social attention. Maybe it’s just as clear cut as someone doesn’t want to give up their party lifestyle. Everybody has their own reasons.
It's because of these reasons that so many of us resort to self-sabotage. It’s something we do subconsciously. Without even knowing it, we fuck up on purpose.
Before you chalk me up to being batshit crazy, hear me out.
Why do we all want to lose weight? Well some of us from the beginning just truly want to be healthier (this was not me), but most of us really just want to look great and feel great (this was me). I mean let’s be honest, we all wanna be hot pieces of ass.
Well at least I wanted to be. I thought if I lost all my weight, I’d find happiness. Well it turns out what I found hidden under the 120 pounds I lost wasn’t happiness, but that’s a whole different topic for another day. Today we’re talking about why we can’t lose weight.
Okay, so back to my question: Why do we want to lose weight? The answer, for the most part, is to look good. Yes, I know this isn’t the right answer for everybody but for argument’s sake, we’re going with the most common reason out there… vanity.
And by vanity I mean an amazing ass.
Alright, so we’re on board the diet train so we can lose weight and look great. It sucks changing everything about how we live but we’re doing it. We even lose a few pounds, maybe even as much as 25-30. We start feeling better. We’re proud of ourselves. Maybe we even find ourselves standing a little taller these days, strutting our stuff a little. Shit is good.
And then we stop.
We stop doing everything that was making us lose the weight. We start backsliding on the food. We drop a workout here and there until they’re non-existent. When this first starts happening, we get a grace period of a few weeks. We’ve been doing so well that our bodies have learned a new routine.
But now we start making shit decisions and start backpedaling. It takes our bodies a few weeks to really start registering the change in the wrong direction. So for 2-3 weeks we live in a make-believe world.
A world where we can all of a sudden eat what we want and slack off and nothing bad happens because of it.
Here’s my theory. This make-believe world? It’s not make-believe at all. Our brains know exactly what the hell they’re doing. This is self-sabotaging at its finest. Putting yourself in this pretend state so that you can ignore what’s happening. When we get close to our goals, or even get a glimpse that it’s possible to reach them, sometimes we shut that shit down right quick.
There are two main reasons. Most of us fall into one of these categories. Some of us fall into both.
Reason #1: We are afraid of success
Being successful makes huge changes happen. Our lives become very different once we find success (of any kind). Being successful comes with a price. It means that you have to take on an entirely different set of responsibilities.
Most people don’t even realize that they’re afraid of succeeding. In our brains this fear of success manifests itself in many forms and hides its true self from us.
We go on thinking our failures are because of our excuses and reasons when really we’re harboring a deep-rooted fear of success.
Being successful means you’ll have to work hard to keep what you’ve achieved or acquired. It’s more hard work after the hard work. Humans abhor change. We avoid that shit the plague. It doesn’t matter if it’s a good change. It’s still a change and it scares us.
With change comes the big bad fear of the unknown. Sometimes far back in one of those hidden compartments of our crazy ass heads is that lazy little voice saying, “You already know how to live the old way. It’s easy. You’re used to it.
This new way is going to be too hard.”
This pertains to any aspect of life, not just losing weight. You’ll see people sabotage themselves constantly. Sabotage their jobs, marriages, friendships, personal endeavors, the list goes on.
Meaning also comes into play. You see, if you don’t have a substantial reason for doing something, you can easily talk yourself it.
Being successful isn’t as appealing when you don’t have something important enough to justify all the work you have to do. Looking good was never important enough to me to get me past those first few months of busting my ass.
I would start out with so much motivation and excitement. Yeah buddy, I was gonna be hot and sexy! I couldn’t wait!
But then something would happen. I’d realize it was going to take forever and a day to lose all this weight. My excitement and vigor would grind themselves to a screeching halt and then it’d really hit me.
I’m still going to be fat in six months. Hell, I knew I was going to still be fat after 12 months. That killed my motivation real quick, especially when I’d have my brain feeding me all kinds of lies and excuses.
It gave me endless reasons to abort my Mission: Sexy Bitch.
If all you have is the hopes of a smaller ass to get you through this shit, I’m telling you right now, you will fail. You need something meaningful. I mean, REALLY meaningful.
Think about this. What if some magical genie came to you and said if you lost all of your weight, your children would live long healthy lives. Or maybe he said if you lost all of your weight, your dad’s cancer would disappear. I can guarantee that you’d not only lose your weight, but you’d do it record time.
You'd probably have a smile on your face the whole time too, for when you finished somebody you loved very much was going to be healthy. You would have that substantial reason that you needed to succeed. You’d have all the justification in the world. You would be working towards something extremely meaningful.
You'd slay that goal a boss and you'd be bouncing quarters off your ass in no time. You’d be the next Jillian Michaels.
Let’s go back to that reason we wanted to lose weight in the first place for a minute. We wanted to look good, right? Here’s the dealio with that. That’s not a good enough reason. Now believe me, I was right there with you.
I thought it was a good enough reason too. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. And I still don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. I mean shit, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look fabulous. But you need more than that.
Go ahead and keep that as a reason. But add more to it.
Because when you don’t have a meaty enough reason for doing something, when you don’t have something that feeds more than just your id and ego, you end up with just that one reason to achieve it and a million others to quit. That wicked brain of yours is going to keep throwing out life rafts to you while you’re swimming in the choppy diet sea…
and one of these times your ass is gonna grab one of them. It’s human nature. We seek the path of least resistance and in turn we choose the path that we already know. We make a decision in the back of our brains that we’re going to resort to old ways because it’s easier than moving forward. I know, it’s totally messed up. But it's true.
So what can be more meaningful than wanting to lose weight? I’m going to throw something pretty crazy out there right now.
How about you fight for your own health and happiness the way you would fight for your family’s?
How about you become your own damn genie and grant yourself health by working for it?
I know, we’re talking bats in the belfry crazy here. But seriously? Why can’t we all value ourselves the same way we value our loved ones?
For over ten years, I tried constantly to lose weight and I failed miserably each time. I’d end up fatter than I was when I started. In the end it was easier to just stay fat than to work hard.
Well the joke was on me. What I thought was easier made my life a living hell. I thought staying fat was a lot less work. I was blind to how much harder it actually made my life. My husband had to tie my shoes. I ran (okay, wobbled) when I saw people that I knew in stores.
I lied to my kids about why we couldn’t go to the playground or walk around the neighborhood because I didn’t want anyone to see how obese I had gotten. I turned down countless party invites that my husband and little girls wanted to go to because I was embarrassed of myself.
I would get breath going up a flight of stairs. I’d pretend I was sleeping because I didn’t want to get naked in front of my husband. I’d cry myself to sleep most nights because I was so unhappy with myself and felt such shame.
I lived under a fog of depression and trained myself to deliver fake laughs and smiles whenever I was in public.
I thought this was easier?
Easier than what? Easier than eating right and exercising? Easier than change? I was my goddamned mind if I thought this was easier. This was a miserable and spiritless way to live. I was merely a shell of my former self. The vibrant and lighthearted Gabby I once knew was gone.
If this was what I was getting in exchange for dodging some hard work, no thanks. It took me many years to see it this way but I finally came to realize the harder of the two wasn’t dieting and exercising. The harder of the two was losing who I was and settling for a lesser version of me.
I had become a version of me who chose to wallow in self-pity rather than believe in herself for five fucking minutes.
Before I became obese, I would've never believed in a million years that I would become so broken. I had always been such a confident and headstrong person, even as a child. But life happens.
Sometimes you catch a couple bad breaks and if you're not careful it can change you for the worse. It's in these trying times that sometimes your mind will convince you of the craziest shit because you need an excuse.
You need a reason to fail.
This brings me to the second reason as to why we self-sabotage our efforts.
Reason #2: We don’t think we’re worth it
Do you remember when we talked about how you’d turn into the world’s next supermodel after the genie dude promised your family health if you shrunk your ass? Of course you do. And do you remember why it was so easy for you to lose all of that weight? Yes, because you were doing it for someone you love very much. Someone who was worth it.
Why aren’t you worth it?
I’m going to tell you why I thought I wasn’t. I couldn't get past the fact that I had let myself become so morbidly obese.
Standing at only 5’4”, I looked damn near as wide as I was tall with nearly 300 pounds bearing down on my small frame. I saw my obesity as a weakness.
I called myself mean and nasty names and thought horrible things about myself. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. I felt ugly and disgusting.
I wouldn't even let anyone take a picture of me. One of my biggest regrets in this life is that I don't have more than a few pictures of me with my babies. My husband, Jay, would practically beg me to get in pictures. He used to say to me all the time, “Honey, the kids don't care about your weight.
They love you and when they get older, they're going to want to see pictures of you with them when they were little. They're going to want pictures of their mommy. You're going to regret not having them.” But it didn't matter at the time, I refused to let him take them. And my God was he right. My heart aches with so much regret it brings me to tears.
In the span of years, I only have a couple pictures of me holding my baby girls.
In fact, if someone did take a picture of me, I would grab whatever was near me and try to cover myself. I actually thought that it was hiding how big I was. If you're familiar with my blog, I'm sure you've seen some of the same 'Before' photos in different articles. It's because there are very few in existence.
How Can You Avoid Weight Loss Sabotage?
When you're trying to lose weight, there may be people or situations in your life that can sabotage your weight loss goals. You will need to arm yourself with tactics to thwart this sabotage and stay on track.
Getty Images/Peter Glass
Every few months, my husband announces his intention to lose weight. I used to roll my eyes, figuring he would become a health nut for a week before giving up. He pointed this out to me and I realized that I wasn’t doing him any favors by not taking him seriously. In fact, by not supporting him, I was hurting his chances for success.
You may have experienced something similar. Sometimes it’s subtle—an eye-roll or a sarcastic comment. Sometimes it’s more damaging, creating an environment that runs counter to what you’re trying to accomplish.
- Your husband brings home a seven-layer chocolate cake to celebrate your 10-pound weight loss
- Your wife laughs when you tell her you’re going on a diet and says, “You? Stick with a diet? Good one!”
- Your partner, knowing you’re on a diet, takes you to a restaurant that only serves fried cheese and beer
- Your mother-in-law frowns when you turn down her homemade gravy, saying, “My other son-in-law loves my gravy.”
- Your mother hands you a plate of lasanga and says, “You’re too thin and I spent hours making this just for you.”
Stop the Sabotage:
- Communication. Talking to your partner, the same way my husband talked to me, may be enough to make her aware of what she's doing.
- Ask for support. People will often respond better to a request for help rather than an attack.
- Use your strength. If you can’t get support, draw on your own strength to keep going in spite of it. Keep a food and exercise journal and remind yourself of your goals. In the end, you’re in charge of your own choices. People can make those choices harder for you, but they can’t make them for you.
Getty Images/JGI/Jamie Grill
Have you ever had that friend who looks over your meal at a restaurant, cocks an eyebrow and says, “Are you sure you want to eat
that?” We’ve all known people that, but these people can also end up sabotaging your weight loss. Just family members, friends can sometimes feel threatened by your weight loss, afraid that you’ll look better or that you’ll move on to a different circle of friends. They may even feel jealous that you're changing your life and moving forward while they're standing still.
Some things a sabotaging friend may say or do:
- “Boy, I feel fat today. Do I look fat?” The problem? She’s thinner than a toothpick while you’re several pounds overweight.
- You’re at a restaurant and your friend digs into a juicy burger, saying, “I don’t know how you can eat that salad.
I would just die if I had to eat that all the time.”
- You mention you’re joining a gym and your friend says, “I heard that exercise can actually make you fat. Oh, you haven’t heard that? Well, I’m sure it won’t happen to you.
- You’re at a bar and mention you’re on the wagon to lose weight. Your friend shouts, “A round of tequila shots, bartender! Hey, just one drink won’t hurt, right?”
- You're on the way to the gym and your friend calls with an emergency.
You skip your workout to help, only to find out her 'emergency' was not wanting to watch American Idol by herself.
Stop the Sabotage:
- Have a heart-to-heart. your family, your friend may not know what he’s doing. Telling him that you need his help to lose weight may make him more supportive.
- Distance yourself. If your friend doesn’t change her behavior, you may need to take a breather from that relationship.
- Find support elsewhere. Whether it's a support group or another friend who's trying to lose weight, find people who are on the same page and can help you keep those healthy habits.
While family and friends can sometimes threaten your weight loss goals, your toughest critic is probably yourself. Most of us are hard on ourselves and more critical than we would ever be with anyone else.
However, being too restrictive and unforgiving can actually backfire.
We all need a little wiggle room and taking that flexibility away can make you feel you’re being tortured rather than enjoying your workouts or healthy diet choices.
Some ways you might sabotage yourself:
- Having unrealistic expectations: “I should get started on my diet right now if I want to lose 50 pounds in the next three weeks.”
- Following an overly restrictive diet: “Lemon juice and cayenne pepper for every meal? Perfect!”
- Doing too much exercise too soon: “I should be able to handle exercising for two hours every day at 4 a.m.
- Overbooking yourself: “400 cupcakes by tomorrow morning? Oh, heck, I can do that if I skip — well — everything.
- Giving excuses for not following through: “I would've done my workout but that sock drawer won't organize itself, will it?”
- Setting impossible weight loss goals: “My goal is to be the same weight I was before I had six children.”
Stop Sabotaging Yourself:
- Set realistic goals. Giving yourself permission to lose weight slowly and safely will help you focus less on results and more on the important decisions that will get you there.
- Ditch the excuses. All of us can think of some excuse for not exercising, but there are even more reasons to follow through. Spend your energy thinking of how to get yourself moving rather than how to avoid your workout.
- Give up on weight loss. Focusing on a slow-moving scale can be frustrating. Turning your attention to other, more meaningful goals, may motivate you more while helping you lose weight.
Getty Images/Buena Vista Images
Sometimes it’s a person who sabotages you and, other times, it’s a situation -– a long vacation where anything goes. Too often, we look at a vacation as license to ditch every healthy behavior we’ve been following.
After all, isn’t a vacation supposed to be about enjoying life? Who wants to follow a diet or workout on vacation? The problem with that kind of thinking is that you can easily blow all your hard work and, while it may be fun at the time, you may regret it when you get back.
Some ways you may sabotage yourself:
- Eating everything in sight. It feels good not to have to count every calorie, or eat a salad when you’d much rather have the fried cheese sticks.
- Drinking everything in sight.
Vacations make it suddenly acceptable to drink in the middle of the day — and the afternoon — and all night.
- Too much lounging.
Resting can be a good thing, but many of us use a vacation as an excuse to do so much nothing that even walking from the hotel room to the beach seems an effort.
Stop the Sabotage:
- Plan ahead. Plan things that are both active and fun in between your lazy days. Long walks on the beach, bike rides or a snorkeling trip can be great for moving around without feeling you’re exercising.
- Try short workouts. There are a variety of short workouts that will keep you fit without cutting into your vacation time.
- Think moderation. Tropical drinks piña coladas have tons of calories. If you do drink, go lighter with wine, light beer or alcohol with no-calorie mixers. Enjoy good food, but treat yourself to just one or two high-calorie choices a day, making your other foods more healthful.
- Plan for a little weight gain. Even if you do make good choices, you may gain weight simply because you’re off your regular routine. Use that as motivation to get back on track when you get home.
Staying fit and avoiding weight gain is hard enough without adding the free-for-all attitude that accompanies the holidays. Even worse, many of us are subjected to temptation for weeks at a time. Add in the stress of cooking, shopping, socializing and parties and you barely have the energy for your workouts, much less the time.
Some situations you may encounter:
- You show up at a party, ready to graze on carrots and tree bark. You look across the room and — wait — is that your ex hanging on the arm of someone better looking than you? You black out after nosediving into the dessert table.
- You vow to have one drink at your office party to save calories.
Three shots of tequila later, you realize dancing on the conference room table is a good way to burn off those extra calories.
- You’re so busy, your most intense workout involves circling the mall for a parking space.
- You look up how many calories you can burn wrapping gifts and find out you need to wrap 5,416 presents just to burn off that cup of eggnog you had last night.
Stop the Sabotage
- Prepare yourself. Holiday parties will happen and they will always include high calorie foods. Set up a party routine to help you stay on track: Eat a light meal beforehand, choose one or two treats to indulge in at the party, drink a glass of water for every alcoholic drink and stay as far away from the food as you can after you’ve eaten.
- Keep exercising. No matter how busy you are, make time for exercise, even if it’s just ten minutes at a time. You’ll manage your stress while keeping some semblance of order amidst the chaos.
- Find some support. If you’re having trouble saying no to temptation, enlist a friend to help steer you away from bad decisions. Have her meet you for workouts or get between you and the buffet table at the next party.
Tiny, airless cubicle? Check. Hours of tedious work with an annoying boss? Check. Box of donuts available at all hours of the day? Check.
The office can be one of the worst places for weight loss sabotage. Even if you enjoy your job, you’re bound to get bored and tired, leading you to that mid-afternoon need for a pick-me-up. Add the fact that you’re sitting for most of the day, and you have a recipe for weight gain.
Some situations you might face:
- Parties. Birthdays, someone’s new baby…there always seems to be a reason for cake and you don’t want to be a party-pooper, do you?
It’s possible to sit through a boring meeting without eating one of those 2,000-calorie cinnamon rolls, but it smells so good and you’re so hungry and your boss is droning on. Just one won’t hurt, will it?
- The donuts.
In my office, we always had that one guy who brought a box of fresh, steaming Krispy Kreme donuts every day. Even donut-haters couldn’t resist.
- The candy dish.
Walking by the receptionist’s desk, you can feel the magnetic pull and a handful (or three) of chocolates doesn’t seem a big deal at the time.
- Eating out. When everyone orders the deep-fried double cheeseburger special, it’s easy to follow along under the theory that, if you all do it, it doesn’t count.
Stop the Sabotage:
- Keep healthy snacks. Fruit, instant soup, popcorn or oatmeal will satisfy your hunger and keep you away from the junk.
- Bring healthy foods. I used to bring fruit to some of my meetings and caught a lot of flack for it. Better that than an extra 5 lbs.
- Ask for help. Tell your co-workers you need help losing weight and they may be happy to move the donuts elsewhere or stop bringing them entirely.
- Stay active. If you’re creative, there are ways to exercise at work without your boss knowing about it. Try this office workout or these stretches right at your desk.
Of all the eating we do every day, emotional eating can be the worst for sabotaging our weight loss. When we feel bored, lonely or stressed, the kitchen is often our first refuge and we usually aren't reaching for the carrot sticks.
Food, especially of the junk variety, can be a natural pick-me-up when you're feeling down, but it can easily add extra pounds, making you feel even worse about yourself. Even worse, the best laid healthy plans can go right out the window in the face of stress or boredom.
Some scenarios you might face:
- You spend an entire day working on a presentation about synergistic restructuring of customer-based initiatives. Hours into the project, you're so bored you've used all your change to buy candy bars from the vending machine. When you run out, you consider panhandling for more.
- You're home alone watching bad reality TV and feeling lonely.
You're almost desperate enough to call your mom to talk, but realize you'll get less guilt if you inhale a bag of Doritos and a bottle of wine.
- After a long day, you're exhausted but determined to make a healthy meal.
The pizza delivery boy drives by and, before you can stop yourself, you're running into the street, waving a $20 bill and screaming for him to come back.
Stop the Sabotage:
- Keep a food diary. Habitually writing down what you're eating makes it easier to notice what triggers emotional eating and help you avoid it.
- Have a backup plan. Make a list of things you can do when you're bored or lonely — take a walk, call a friend, brush your teeth, clean out the junk drawer, etc. When you want to eat to make yourself feel better, do just one thing on your list and you may bypass the urge.
- Explore new options. Come up with things you can do on a regular basis to reduce stress or beat boredom. Make food your last resort instead of your first.
Thanks for your feedback!
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