Self-sabotaging behaviors

Sitting down to write my blog and decided to check Facebook quickly. That turns into 30 minutes of commenting “lol” and “you’re kids are so adorable!” Before I know it, I only have about 30 minutes to work on my blog before my kiddos get off the bus.

I had great intentions initially. I have been telling myself for over 20 years that I need to “get organized and goal-oriented”; but I continue to procrastinate in certain areas of my life. I also find myself stressed out because I’m not meeting a deadline I’ve put in place for myself.

This is a form of self-sabotage. There is a goal I want to achieve; but I always find ways to avoid it until the last minute.

There are several forms of self-sabotage. This is a topic that is so large and there is so much information that for the purpose of this blog, I am going to stick with the two of the most common when it comes to weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.

  1. Procrastination

Often times, procrastination stems from a fear that we are not good enough or worth something. Using my personal example, I have struggled for many years with feelings of incompetency. I was not a straight “A” student during my high school years and struggled during undergraduate years, as well. During graduate school, I received all “A’s”, and was even offered a position as an adjunct instructor at the University by the Dean of my college a few years after graduating. During my time as an instructor, I would also procrastinate. It was extremely frustrating. But I have always known that this stems from uncertainty of myself. It is something I will have to work on my entire life, but I now know I have tools available to me. I use them regularly and I will talk about them in a bit. By being aware of where my procrastination comes from, I can change my behavior for the better. And once I get going on the blog… it’s all good! My confidence returns.

If you are looking to lose weight and find that you do great for a while only to fall back into old habits, you may also be experiencing self-doubt. You would prefer to just remain the same than to fail. You may have some underlying beliefs that you don’t deserve to be in better health or that you’re not good enough to take the time for yourself. This is a thought process you must consider if you want to change a behavior. If you’re not doing a workout, is it really because you’re “lazy”? Probably not! There are likely other reasons behind why you don’t want to exercise. More on that in a bit.

  1. Using food, drugs, and/or alcohol as self-medication

Some people are surprised to see food in the same category as drugs and alcohol. But it is why I studied emotional eating in great depths during my graduate school years. Just as an alcoholic uses alcohol to repress feelings, someone who is an emotional eater uses food to repress feelings. It is a form of self-sabotage that many Americans experience. We have so many programs out there that offer “quick fixes” by eating certain foods or by using their product; but they don’t address the fact that there are emotional reasons behind why individuals overeat or eat unhealthy. Just take a look at some celebrities out there and you will see that this is true. Many of them have personal trainers and chefs at their beck-and-call. Yet they struggle to lose, gain, or maintain weight. They are not immune to emotional eating and self-sabotage.

So, I’ve discussed a couple of the many ways individuals self-sabotage. What can we do about these? How can we change the behavior? If this is something that is deeply rooted for you, you may need additional assistance from a counselor. A counselor or coach who specializes in this area can teach you behavioral techniques to help you change your thought process and eventually your negative behaviors.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is what is most often used to help individuals replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk. The hope is that by doing this, we can retrain our brain to believe something different. Once we do that, we will change our behavior to reflect our new belief.

To give a simple example, if someone were to consistently tell themselves, “I’m too lazy to lose weight”, they could replace it by simply saying, “I’m not too lazy” or, “I’m not lazy but I put a lot of pressure on myself in other areas of my life which lead me to turn to food to help cope with the stress”. When you look at it from this standpoint, rather than putting yourself down consistently, you start to feel more hopeful and less ashamed.

Going back to my personal example, I have had to retrain my brain and remind myself that I am competent. I have to make myself sit down in front of the computer and start to type. Once I get going, my confidence lifts and I could type forever! Next week I will go through the same steps. I have acknowledged that this is something I am going to have to work on for an extended period of time. But my goal is that one day this will all come naturally for me.

One issue here is that identifying the behavior to start with can be very challenging. We have repeated a certain behavior or believed something about ourselves for so many years that it feels natural. Journaling can help identify what we are telling ourselves, even though we may not realize it. I often encourage clients to “just write”. If food is their comfort, I ask them to write before they eat and describe how they are feeling. What happened that is drawing them to food? If they chose to eat before they get a chance to write (which is procrastination and self-sabotaging in of itself), then write after. How did they feel when they decided to binge? Identify the feelings that are attached to food and what is drawing you to food.

If you decide to put off your workout until tomorrow (“I’ll start tomorrow” sound familiar?), you are procrastinating. Figure out why and you will be much more likely to change the behavior. If you’re having a difficult time doing this on your own, find a counselor or therapist with experience to help you. If you don’t start making the changes today, you’ll be fighting the same battle next month, next year, next decade, etc. If you’re ready to make a change, make it today. Be ok with starting over again if you fail. Be ok with failing! Tell yourself that it does not make you a bad person to fail. It makes you human. Know that you will continue your efforts until you’ve mastered it!


8 thoughts on “Self-sabotaging behaviors

  1. Well said! This is my third12-week challenge, and I will continue my efforts until I have mastered what it takes for me to truly live my 1 fit life. Thank you!

  2. You are a very good writer. Having studied and met Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, and many others, I believe successful people need constant reinforcement. I own two companies and live a simple life. But, when I see good writing I am drawn to it. I like what you said about self sabotaging because someone or something told us we were not good enough. Could have occurred in our childhood. Thank you again and keep up the nice work. Peas out. Chuck in Ohio.

  3. Thank you for this. I’m last minute Molly. Waiting till the last minute causes stress, reduces sleep and leads to emotional eating. Vicious circle that I’m working hard to stop.


    1. I understand as I do this myself, at times. It takes effort and personal mental strength to get there. But take those baby steps and it will happen, I promise 🙂

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