With her 30th around the corner, Kelli made a commitment to herself: no more sugar, alcohol, doughnuts or fried food. She knew that if she could stick to those rules, she’d be able to lose the few kilos that she wanted to shed.
She was excited about her plan and looking forward to feeling lighter, healthier, and more energised— she was going to look and feel great at her 30th!
Fast-forward a few days and Kelli found herself in a restaurant with friends after work ordering nachos with extra cheese and drinking one too many glasses of wine.
On the way home, she’s hit by the all-too-familiar feelings of failure, frustration, and confusion about why she continually sabotages her healthy eating goals.
We’ve all been in Kelli’s shoes. We know where we want to go. We know how to get there. We even feel excited about our plan — but before we know it, we’re sabotaging our plans, undermining our progress, and hating ourselves for it.
When we decide to make changes around our eating patterns and habits we have neural pathways in our brain around our current relationship with food. We have our morning coffee at the same time and in the same place. We order the same types of things when we eat out. We reach for the same evening snacks at the same time. The neural pathways that have been created around these habits make them automatic and very comfortable.
Changing them requires your brain to not only abandon an established neural pathway but work to build a new one, leaving it feeling uncomfortable and longing to go back to the old, familiar pattern. And this is why we revert to old behaviours, even when they cause us pain.
The good news is that the discomfort of breaking old neural pathways and creating new ones is temporary.
Try to see the discomfort as merely our brain breaking down old neural pathways and creating new ones. Then you can welcome the discomfortable feelings as a sign of progress and simply wait for it to pass rather than sabotaging ourselves by reverting to old, comfortable habits.
As much as we think we want to reach our goals, it’s very common to run up against fear and resistance as we find ourselves moving closer to them. Why? Because getting there is hard work and it’s easy to view the reward as just a lifetime of more hard work.
The thing is though that what we resists, persists! If the journey toward losing the weight feels like a constant struggle of missed fun and self-deprivation, part of you understandably assumes that reaching your goal and having to maintain it will mean a lifetime of more of the same. No wonder you end up sabotaging yourself!
You need to redefine your idea of what success is. If success to you is just a lower number on the scale, then the journey will always be a struggle, and reaching and maintaining the goal will always just look like more struggle — a recipe for self-sabotage.
If you don’t know your why or have a clear and compelling vision for the healthy life and body you’re trying to create for yourself, you are likely to self-sabotage.
Imagine that you’re presented with a choice between having a delicious nutella filled doughnut, and not having the doughnut — which one do you choose? The doughnut, of course!
But, if the choice is between having the doughnut and feeling temporarily blissed out, or making a healthier choice that aligns with a crystal-clear vision you have for the vibrant, strong, energised, and confident person you’re becoming, well, suddenly the doughnut doesn’t always win. You’ve stacked the deck a little more in your favour and you’re far less likely to sabotage your journey.
Spend some time thinking, writing, and talking about your vision for the healthy life and body you want. Imagine every detail, think of every scenario, and envision exactly how amazing it will feel. This will give enormous strength to your resolve when you’re faced with temptation and make self-sabotage far less attractive.
Self-sabotage is something we’ve all been guilty of, but by making some simple shifts in how we understand discomfort, how we define success, and how we visualize our goals we can leave that behaviour behind.