Why We Sabotage Our Healthy Eating Efforts

One day I was talking to a friend about self-sabotage because it’s a topic that often comes up with my clients. As I was explaining that I wanted to write a blog post about the topic she said, “I’ll start it for you!” because she could relate. Here’s her story and then I’ll get into more about self-sabotage and what it really is and what it means if you’re feeling like you’re getting in the way of your health and weight goals.

“I’ve got this.” Three months ago, I signed up for a weight loss program and made a vow to myself that THIS time would be different from the four previous times I signed up for the same program. This time I would follow the program to a tee. This time I would track my food, watch my patterns and commit to exercise. Today, I weigh the same I did when I took that great oath three months back, AND I’m still paying for the program telling myself “it’ll happen.”

Funny how history repeats itself. My intentions are there in the beginning then quickly fizzle out when I realize “I don’t have time” or “This is too tough.” Reality is that it’s not too tough. Millions of others have faced the same challenge of losing weight having many more obstacles to overcome than I have. Why can’t I do this? Why do I sabotage myself each time thinking next time will be different? There’s something more I’m missing.

After my friend wrote this she turned to me and asked, how do you stay so motivated and keep your willpower up? I explained that it has taken a lot of work and digging into my emotional relationship with food to get to where I am today.

Here’s the thing, many of us know what we’re supposed to do with food because there isn’t a lack of information out there about what to eat (although it can be confusing with all the conflicting information). Many of us are accomplished in various areas of our lives, yet food seems to be a constant battle. My clients are often frustrated by this when we first start working together, but once I help them see all of the factors that are eating away at their willpower they start to experience relief in knowing there isn’t something wrong with them.

To illustrate what I mean about the factors that eat away at our willpower I’m going to share a client’s story. For the purposes of this post I’m going to call this client Stephanie. When we first started working together Stephanie had the best of intentions to “be good” and start the day with a healthy breakfast. However, she would find herself getting the same coffee and croissant a few days a week and would end up feeling horrible the rest of the day. Not only would she feel bad physically, she would also beat herself up for the rest of the day about how she had intended on making a healthy choice but didn’t stick to it AGAIN. What was happening? Why didn’t she have willpower, especially in the morning?

It turned out she was feeling depleted from different things in her life including accommodating others and putting their needs ahead of her own. She also felt like she wasn’t good enough in her marriage, her body and at work, which we explored in depth. She would end up eating something sweet in the morning as a way to treat herself and as an early reward before the craziness of the day started. In a way she was gearing up for her day.

As you can see, with all of the emotional stuff going on no amount of willpower would keep Stephanie away from the pastries at the coffee shop. Think of each of these emotional triggers as a minnow nibbling away at your willpower. As they multiply and build on one another our desire to care decreases and we end up in automatic pilot around food where we feel we deserve to eat something. Even though it might be subconscious, this level of emotional weight that’s being carried around each day is exhausting and builds on itself so by the time you are surrounded with food that looks good, sounds good and would be a rebellious, delicious choice, that’s when you “sabotage” yourself, say ‘who cares?’ and dig in!

So next time you find yourself in the screw it mindset around food and get frustrated that you’re sabotaging your efforts, show yourself some compassion because this human gig isn’t easy.

If you’re in Chicago and would like to understand more about why you get into automatic pilot around food and say ‘screw it,’ join Movement Therapist, Katie Bellamy from InTouch & Motion and me on June 6th for a unique workshop. We will provide strategies on how to break the cycle of being consumed by the thought of food.

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