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How To Overcome Self-Sabotage In Your Weight Loss Program

shane's coach's corner Jun 02, 2022

Let me paint you a picture of a scenario I’ve seen countless times over the past twenty years as a personal trainer. A new client comes into the gym ready to take action with losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle. They’re highly motivated and eager to start their diet plan and workouts. During the first few weeks the excitement only builds as they begin to feel better and have more energy.

But then out of the blue, completely without any real warning signs, they fall off the wagon and backslide into old habits! If you’ve ever started a diet or workout program and experienced this happening to you, I can assure you that you’re certainly not alone.

Self-sabotage is more common than you may think when going about making significant lifestyle changes. The important thing to understand is that its “change” and change can make people do some funny things. Often times, it’s things they don’t really want to do and don’t understand what triggered it.

In today’s post I’m going to discuss what’s frequently behind the self-sabotage along with some practical ideas on how to overcome it.

One week you don’t miss a workout, your diet is on point, and everything is humming along. Then next week you slip up on your diet a bit, miss a workout or two, and start feeling thoughts of failure.

What’s most perplexing is that you know you’re slipping, but you’re not sure why. It’s as if some unseen force has control over your behavior like you were a puppet on a string. Guilt and thoughts of failure only fuels the negative emotions which perpetuate a steady cycle of negative behavior.

Uggh! You’re in a rut.

Everything goes back to your thoughts...

The first thing that needs to happen is for you to have a reality check. Look, you’re not going to be perfect (in anything), and you’ve not failed, you’ve only gotten off track. I want you to step back for a minute and consider something.

The real culprit here is negative thoughts that aren’t being held under the light of truth. You didn’t fail.

This idea of failure is complete horse malarkey! You simply had some decisions and resulting actions that weren’t in line with your stated identity.

The problem is not keeping your thoughts in check, not holding them to the light of truth. Remember every action, and likely series of actions, starts with a thought. Guard your thoughts and you’ll affect your actions.

Give yourself some grace and affirm to get in line with the habits you identify with, not the ones you don’t. What’s most important is you don’t let the seeds of negativity and failure take root! Remember what we sow we shall reap. Don’t be so quick to beat yourself up, but rather reaffirm your commitment and get back on the wagon.

Feeling overwhelmed can trigger emotions that we're not measuring up

One of the key reasons many people find themselves falling off track is because of the feeling of being overwhelmed. This is why I always recommend to my clients the practice of setting small goals and building off small successes instead of trying to overhaul everything all at once.

When you allow yourself to become overwhelmed with trying to be perfect all the time or attempting to do too much (too soon) you set up faulty expectations. Ultimately you can’t live up to such an unreasonable standard and the proceeding guilt negatively affects your actions.

Fear of success or failure is also your enemy...put fear in its place!

Other times there may be an actual fear of success. As crazy as this might sound, it’s true as I’ve witnessed it several times with clients. Fear of success often occurs due to negative self-talk from others that still dominate your beliefs and attitude.

Maybe it was a spouse that constantly put you down.

Maybe it was childhood peers that told you were fat.

As sad as this is, the reality is negative input from others can get into your subconscious thoughts and stay there until you replace it with another identity.

The place (or identity) we’re used to is the place we’re comfortable. Change can be fearful, even if it’s change for the better.

Realize that your effort in eliminating negative self-talk and negative beliefs from others is an essential part of improving your self-confidence and moving forward in a different direction. You want to in essence reprogram your subconscious thoughts. You’ll develop a higher self-esteem and self-respect slowly but surely as you purposely change your thoughts through verbal positive affirmations and visualization.

Your commitment to eliminate fear is a personal choice. When you experience tough times, discouraging words from others or negative self-talk, don’t let yourself get down. Take a proactive stance towards programming your mind with positive thoughts.

5 Ways To Overcome Sabotaging Your Progress In A Weight Loss Program

#1: Welcome challenges and change in your life

Continually tell yourself that you’re someone who welcome challenges and you’re open to change and growth. Stand ready and willing to challenge yourself. There’s a quote or saying we put on the back of our t-shirts at Shaping Concepts, I believe it comes from Fred DeVito that goes like this…” If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” Obviously, I’ve thought highly enough of this saying to put it on our shirts as a tagline. I really like it because it’s reflective of most things in life. We typically don’t like to go through, tough times, difficulties, suffering, etc, but it’s in these times that we’re challenged that we grow. 

As a man of faith, I sincerely believe this to be true. It’s like discipline, we don’t like it at the time, but what it produces we do like. We need not shy away from challenges or discomfort. Staying in the same place, doing the same things, may seem comfortable, but it keeps us trapped in a false sense of security. We don’t stay the same. Change is a part of life. We can either embrace positive changes and go through the challenges or attempt to avoid them. Choices…. life is full of them.

#2: Make a commitment to someone other than yourself

Tell yourself that whatever you set out to accomplish, you will give it 100%. Stop providing excuses to blame yourself or others. Believe in yourself and eliminate all the “should’s” and “ought’s” from your vocabulary. Make a commitment and give your word to someone that you’re going to do <fill in the blank>. When we tell others we’re going to do something it’s much more powerful than keeping it to ourselves.

#3: Strive to get a little better each week, not be perfect every day

Be the best version of you, looking to getter little by little each week. Continually “see” yourself in an evolving way. Believe in your ability to make it happen. Remember, your beliefs impact the way you feel and behave. One of the biggest misconceptions with fitness is the belief that every workout needs to be really challenging. This is simply not realistic. Remember, you’re a real person who is living life that is every changing. One day you feel great, another day you were up half the night with stomach cramps, so you feel drained and lethargic. This is called life.

Make sure you’re applying this to your expectations with workouts. You’re not going to be setting personal best records (PBR’s) with every workout. Showing up and doing some work is better than not coming through the door of the gym. Being consistent is what matters most over the long-haul.

A coach I really look up to and admire in the industry by the name of Dan John has a saying that I love. Dan says, “it’s little and often over the long-haul that makes the difference.” That my friends is what we call truth. Keep showing up. Get a little better each week, everything will fall into place.

#4: Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts

When we consider actually moving towards a goal that requires change, a part of us automatically looks ahead to the possible outcomes, especially the possibility of negative ones, and it can make us freeze up. You probably already know that it’s only natural to want to stay in our “comfort zones.”

Remember though you have the choice to decide whether to stay on the same road or make a hard turn onto a new one. Take control of negativity and self-sabotaging behavior by creating positive beliefs and envisioning positive outcomes (the ones you want).

There’s a strategy called “thought stopping” that you may find helpful here. You can use this to change the direction when you find yourself slipping into a negative thought pattern. When you recognize a negative thought creeping in, say to yourself, with a loud and firm inner voice: “STOP!” You can verbalize this out loud, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re let’s say walking around in Walmart by yourself. Oh, wait a minute, that may seem normal there. Never mind. Lol. Anyways once you’ve declared stop, it’s important to replace that negative thought with a more positive statement and image.

#5: State your identity by verbally declaring affirmations

This is a big one. Look, there’s little chance you’re going to be successful in let’s say a weight loss endeavor if you’re frequently telling yourself and others about how “you’re fat.” Make no mistake, your words have power, and you need to think twice about what comes out of your mouth. Stop calling things out to be the opposite of where you see yourself headed.

This isn’t denying reality, far from it. Listen it’s one thing to acknowledge that you’ve gained weight, but it’s another thing to call yourself fat. Stop it! That’s not your identity. Tell yourself you’re lean, strong, fit, full of energy, (that’s your identity)! In other words, calls things that are not as though they were. Trust me, there’s power in this.

To really reprogram your subconscious thoughts, write your affirmation down on an index card or piece of paper and make a commitment to read it out loud (yes, out loud) twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. What you’re doing is programming your brain to act like a fit, lean, etc, person as your thoughts are the basis of your behaviors and actions. If you don’t pick anything else up from this post, get this little gem as it alone can make a big difference.

There are certainly several other tips and strategies to use, but hopefully this provides you with a few helpful suggestions. The bottom line is the root of the sabotage, regardless of the underlying reasons, all have the same foundation in negative thoughts and identities. There may be faulty belief systems or fear, etc, but the key is getting your thoughts lined up with the necessary behaviors and actions that will progress you towards your goals.

Here's a quick recap

#1: Don’t sabotage your best efforts to be fit with negative self-talk/behaviors.

#2: Take responsibility for your thoughts, your health, and your actions.

#3: Focus on simple, daily steps that will help you reach your goals.

These three strategies are the solution to self-sabotaging habits that interfere with your goals. What you need to realize is that your long-term success doesn’t require an immediate total life overhaul. Yes, it requires a change in your priorities, but be patient with yourself. Just accept the fact that we are all living reflections of our priorities.

Very simply, when health is a priority, we eat well and exercise. Rest assured that you will be able to maintain lifelong healthy eating habits on a regular (not perfect) basis once it means enough to you and you identify as being a healthy eater. You have the power to change. Believe in yourself and your ability to make it happen.

You don't have to make these changes all alone... 

I understand it can be hard going about this all alone. I want you to know I’m here to help. Coaching to me is so much more than providing people with exercises to do. That is just one part of the equation towards a life change. If you would like to learn more about how my services can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me for more information. Be blessed.

Shane Doll CPT, CSCS is a fitness professional and expert on exercise and body transformation for middle age and mature adults. He seeks to make a difference in the lives of others by providing instruction and coaching with a servant-based attitude. Since 2004 his Charleston personal training programs have helped over 3,000 Lowcountry residents.


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