Don't do it, girl...

You know, sabotage is a funny thing.

A lot of us tend to live in the moment, right? I mean, we tend to “wing it.” We “fly by the seat of our pants.” In other words, most of our decisions are made based upon the here and now as opposed to where they’ll get us in the future or whether or not they’ll bring us closer to our goals. (And that’s the real problem, right?) The downfall of this kind of philosophy, however, is that this lack of consciousness leaves us ripe for sabotage to take over… because an “unconscious” person won’t really ever notice that the sabotage is taking place. They’ll only recognize the repercussions of that sabotage after the fact, be it weight gain, fatigue, declining health… whatever.

Sabotage is defined as “an act or process intending to hamper or hurt; a deliberate subversion.” In this context, sabotage is basically an effort someone puts forth to distance you from your goal – whether that goal is improved health, weight loss, an increase in ability… whatever. It’s an intended effort to get in your way.

It’s obvious to see how a lack of awareness can allow for sabotage to get in the way. Your “work friend” offering you a donut even though she knows you’ve lost 23lbs thus far and want to keep the momentum going. Your friends inviting you out to eat, and picking on you about how you need to “live a little” and “enjoy yourself” (because, you know, food is the only way you can enjoy yourself nowadays.) If you weren’t thinking, you might respond to claims of “Aw, come on.. you need to live a little!” with “I know, I know… besides, I have been good lately… why not?” and before you know it, you’re “I know, I know”ing yourself into a plateau or right back into your bad habits. Before you know it, the work donut becomes a part of your daily routine… and you’re suffering hunger and fatigue because you’re eating that instead of something of nutritional value. Bonus points if it’s from one of those gigantic donut chains that fry donuts that aren’t made of, well… food.

Those acts of sabotage, I find, are much easier to solve. You have to think about each word said to you before you respond, and think about each bite of food you put into your mouth. Resolve, to yourself, that it’s okay to take the unpopular stance in regards to food, and like I’ve said before: considering how almost 70% of American society is overweight… it’s not very sane (or smart) to listen to random suggestions from people, especially when they contradict what you’d normally do.

The most complicated acts of sabotage, however, are the ones that come from ourselves. Sneaking unhealthy snacks, eating a cupcake “every other day instead of every day,” buying things in the grocery store that you know aren’t clean, justifying your unnecessary use of sugar because your food “doesn’t taste good without sugar (then why are you eating it?)” or even skipping your workouts – day after day – because you “look good anyway.” I “looked good” at 300lbs… “looking good” isn’t why I work out. I won’t even get on the “hiding food” phenomenon. Yet.

We are, sometimes, our own worst enemy. We can manipulate ourselves. Easily. If I know that I want an excuse to indulge in unplanned cheesecake… guess what? I know exactly what to say to myself to justify why I should eat that cheesecake. I know how that cheesecake might make me feel after indulging… and that’s all the reason in the world to manipulate myself into diving right in… tongue first. It’s basic addict behavior, and that’s why sabotage is such a serious issue. It’s a means of enabling ourselves into continuing bad behavior.

How can we work to stop self-sabotage? I humbly offer up a few suggestions for how I deal with self-sabotage (because really, it is a life-long practice. People never stop wanting to see you gorge yourself and possibly… slowly… work yourself back up to your former weight.)

  1. Accountability – see yourself as if you are your own boss. You wouldn’t intentionally sabotage a project that your boss assigned to you… well, unless you wanted to be fired. You may not be able to fire yourself, but you need to see “poor health” as an equally damaging consequence of your actions.
  2. Consciousness – you cannot identify a situation that needs accountability without being aware. No sleeping at the wheel – every time you eat, it has to be a deliberate effort… not just lazily or thoughtlessly snacking and thinking “I can afford it.” What you can afford today… adds up tomorrow.
  3. Diversion – find something else to do! Divert your attention elsewhere. Go for a walk. Go read a book. Go engage someone or something that doesn’t have anything else to do with food.
  4. Challenge yourself – the behavior that causes sabotage comes from a line of thinking that must be altered. The thinking that implies that it’s “okay” to do something you’ve already identified as wrong… it needs to go. Spend some time questioning why you believe it’s “okay” to do what you know you shouldn’t, and spend some time with the next step…
  5. Reframing – it is important to reframe your perception of not only the act of sabotage, but yourself. It is horrible to sneak in unplanned food. It’s not just wrong, but it is horrible – it is literally a flat tire when you’re looking gorgeous and on the road ready to hit the town. It is unacceptable. It is ridiculous to avoid devoting ten minutes of time to yourself to relax, to workout, to cook dinner. Even more.. it is horrible to keep myself from the pleasure I’d feel in achieving my goal.

Sabotaging ourselves, or allowing thers to sabotage us, is a problem that is much easier to solve than it is to identify.. but if we make it a point to always be focused and aware, we can stop it before it gets out of hand. A little awareness goes a long way!

Do you deal with sabotage? Do you have peers who sabotage you? How do you avoid sabotage? Let’s hear it!