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Knowing Your Flavour Of Self-Sabotage Is Half The Battle

We all have a personalized justification system we use to rationalize our unhealthy choices.

We all have a unique "flavour" (or multiple flavours) of health self-sabotage — a personalized justification system we use to rationalize our unhealthy choices. The trick is to identify your unique flavour — what I often refer to as your "negative brain propaganda." Why? With awareness brings choice. It is once you are aware of unproductive thought patterns (propaganda) that you can figure out targeted solutions.

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Self-sabotage flavour No. 1: Rationalizing with the snowball effect

Missing one workout is not the same as missing five. One cookie is not the same as seven. One glass of wine is not the same as drinking the bottle. Portions count, and all movement adds up.

Too many of us snowball; we rationalize missing workouts or eating multiple treats by telling ourselves that the damage has already been done, so why not indulge further?

You can compensate for small indulgences. If you let that one choice snowball into multiple indulgences it will take days (even weeks) to get back on track.

I live by the motto, "It is always easier to keep up than to catch up." When I want to snowball I use this "mustard" image: I imagine what I would do if I spilled a small amount of mustard on my shirt. I would spot treat it immediately. I wouldn't say, "I spilled this much, so I might as well spill the entire bottle on myself." Spilling the bottle is the same as eating 10 cookies "just because you already had one." Neither makes sense. "Snowballing" does not make sense.

"Had to" statements should be the exception, NOT the norm.

Self-sabotage flavour No. 2: Crying wolf

"I had to skip a workout because of X."

"I had to eat the fast food because it was all that was available."

"I had to have frozen pizza because I had no other food in the house."

If "had to" is your go-to, then "crying wolf" is your method of self-sabotage.

"Had to" assumes an external locus of control. To achieve goals you have to hold yourself accountable. Plus, you can't learn from an externalized "had to" stance — your future self will continue to make the same mistake. Replace "had to" with something like, "I did not plan in advance, and thus this less-than-ideal choice has become what is available."

Sure, once in a small while unhealthy choices are unavoidable — life is unpredictable. But most of the time, if we set ourselves up for success, we can plan so that healthy habits are possible.

"Had to" statements should be the exception, NOT the norm.

Instead of saying you "had to," make your healthy habits convenient (so you don't "have to" reach for the chocolate bar) and your unhealthy habits utterly inconvenient. Create "if ... then" statements — when you are level-headed — about how to act when your future self is in tricky situations. For example, if I want to overeat while watching TV, then I will knit instead.

Self-sabotage flavour No. 3: The "I deserve" mentality

You are not five years old, negotiating with your mom. You are an adult. Don't fall into the "I went for a 30-minute run today so I deserve all the beer, cake, fried food or [fill in the blank] that I want" or "I exercised today so I don't have to feel guilty for watching 10 hours of TV in a row." What you "deserve" is to love yourself enough to make healthy choices.

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Self-sabotage flavour No. 4: The "I am too busy" excuse

"I don't have time" is the grown-up equivalent of "the dog ate my homework."

Think preparation, preparation, preparation. You will always be too busy if you don't carve out time. Schedule your workouts. Analyze your upcoming week. Troubleshoot possible problems. Come up with solutions. Make a date with a friend or sign up for adult dance classes so the time is reserved.

When you are legitimately too busy to complete a full workout, weave motion into your day. Everyone has time to take the stairs instead of the escalator.

Benefits are moot if you can't stick with a program.

Self-sabotage flavour No. 5: Trying to adopt a method of change counter to your personality

Adopt a method of change that is realistic for you. I am sure that sounds obvious — and it is — but to many of us ignore the obvious and instead adopt every new "best" program. Benefits are moot if you can't stick with a program. If you are most successful when you implement changes gradually, be gradual. Try weekly "add-ons." If you like radical change, try something akin to the "180 daily pyramid" method.

Weekly add-ons. List habits you would like to adopt — eg, eat five or more servings of vegetables daily, drink water or eat fewer fried foods. Commit to one or two changes for a week. Once you successfully complete them for a week, continue on, but add another change the following week. Continue to add on positive changes until you have implemented all of your new healthy habits.

180 daily pyramid. Again, start by making a list of possible changes. Next, ask yourself how long you could realistically maintain all of the changes — maybe two days? Be honest. Commit to being 100 per cent disciplined for those two days, knowing that once you finish your two days you can have a "normal" day. After your "normal" day, stick to your goals for three days. Once you can do three days, aim for four, then five, and so on. Eventually, your "normal" will evolve; your new healthier habits will become the norm. Trust me — taste buds and exercise preferences change.

Main takeaway

Sure, miss the occasional workouts and eat some cake — life is worth living. But own the choice. An unhealthy choice is an unhealthy choice, and every choice has a consequence. Decide if the consequence is "worth it." Are you OK not reaching your weekly weight loss goal or having a sugar "crash" at work? Act accordingly.

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