18 Reasons You May Be Sabotaging Your Weight Loss and Exercise Efforts – Part I

by A Diet Community

It’s human nature to dislike change and abhor any sense of deprivation. weight loss sabotage

That’s why it’s little wonder that so many people end up sabotaging their attempts to lose weight and stick to an exercise regimen.

Sigmund Freud keenly observed years ago that “there are no accidents”.  If you find yourself starting diet after diet – always determined to succeed “this time” – and yet consistently fail to reach your goals or put the weight you lost right back on, then the most likely cause is self-sabotage.

It’s no accident that it’s happening; it’s time to stop blaming it on a sluggish metabolism or your innate inability to burn fat.


You Are Not Alone

Before you beat yourself up and reach for that bag of chips to make yourself feel better (step awaaay from the cupboard…  🙂, take heart in the fact that you’re far from alone.

The tendency to sabotage your well-intended attempts to lose weight and exercise regularly is very common.  Not only that, the potential reasons for doing so are practically endless.

To make things worse, many of them occur at a subconscious – or even unconscious – level.

It’s impossible to change something if you don’t know what you need to change.

But don’t despair – once you recognize the reason (or reasons, as is very often the case) why you end up defeating yourself over and over, you’ll be empowered to make the necessary changes that will allow you to finally succeed in your weight loss efforts.

In this brief series of articles, we’ll look at some of the most common reasons for self-sabotage when it comes to losing weight and exercising more.

As you read each one, take some time to consider whether or not it resonates with you.   Don’t be surprised if you have several “ah ha” moments as you go along.  Be grateful if those occur, because awareness is the first step towards making positive changes. 

At the end of each article you’ll find some tips to help you start overcoming these obstacles.  One caveat: don’t expect miracles overnight.

Many of these subtle saboteurs are deeply ingrained and, as mentioned above, have been occurring without your awareness.

Old habits and patterns don’t die easily, but they can definitely be overcome in time.  With conscious effort, you can finally begin having the success that has eluded you for so long!

A final note:  consider investing in a journal as you begin this journey.

Writing down your thoughts, feelings, and new-found insights can be very therapeutic (and a lot less expensive than going to a psychologist for several sessions!)

You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll discover about yourself along the way.


Reasons 1 – 3

Today we’re going to talk about three very common saboteurs:

  • Unrealistic goals
  • Excessive guilt
  • Feelings of unworthiness

Let’s take a close look at how each one can quickly sidetrack your efforts.

Reason #1 – You Have Unrealistic Goals

Having unrealistic weight loss and exercise goals is a set-up for failure.

Although it took months or even years to gain all that extra weight, if you’re like most people you want it gone yesterday.

Perhaps ultra-fast weight loss isn’t the goal; maybe your (unrealistic) goal is to look like a borderline-anorexic Victoria’s Secret model or to run a half marathon 6 weeks from now (after being sedentary for the past few years).

Besides being unattainable, unrealistic goals lead to disappointment and may quickly deflate your motivation.

As a result, you may give up too soon or stop trying altogether.  Unless you realize and accept that your goals need to be adjusted, your inability to attain them will make you feel like a failure and cause your self-esteem to plummet even further.

You may even blame yourself, believing that you lack willpower and self-discipline.  If you succumb to that line of thinking (without recognizing its flaws), you’ll question your ability to ever succeed – and you may stop trying altogether.

Reason #2 – You Create a Vicious Cycle of Guilt, Self-loathing, and Emotional Eating Whenever You “Slip”

This is a common problem for anyone who’s trying to lose weight.

You expect yourself to be perfect.

You start your diet with enthusiasm and gusto, and then, just a few days into it, you slip.

You eat something forbidden and next thing you know, you’re feeling so guilty that you stuff yourself in angry self-loathing to make yourself feel better.

Why?  Because you blew it!  (Or at least that’s what you tell yourself.)

Let’s face it; food is food – we’re not talking about committing a felony here when you give in to your craving for some chocolate.  Everyone slips now and again; it’s not the end of the world.

You’re doomed to failure, however, if you allow excessive guilt to consume you when you don’t stick to your diet and exercise program perfectly.

This isn’t AA – you don’t have to start counting your days of sobriety all over just because you couldn’t resist that cupcake.  You’re not going to go to hell; you’re not going to lose the love and respect of your friends; and you’re not going to be sentenced to 10 years in prison for your “crime”.


Accept that you’re human (which, btw, is synonymous for “imperfect”), forgive yourself, and get right back on track.  The less time you dwell on it, the better.

Reason #3 – You Don’t Feel Deserving or Worthy

It’s almost impossible to allow yourself to have something good in your life – a higher-paying job, a happy relationship, or a fit, svelte body – if you feel (on some level) that you don’t really deserve it.

Low self-esteem and deep-seated feelings of unworthiness typically go hand in hand and are not uncommon – especially for anyone who’s been overweight much of their life.

If you believe that you’re not worthy of being slender and looking great, then you’re always going to find some way to either sabotage your weight loss efforts or gain the weight back once you lose it.

You may not even realize how deep those feelings of unworthiness go.

Unless and until you acknowledge them and start changing them, they’ll continue to get in your way.


Helpful tips:

  1. Carefully look at your goals; make sure they’re both realistic and doable.  If you have really big  goals (e.g. losing 100+ pounds), break them down into smaller increments (e.g. 5 to 10 pounds at a time) and reward each success along the way.  If you’re not sure about your goals, discuss them with a trusted friend or talk to your doctor, nutritionist, or dietitian.  Sometimes a second opinion can help you put things in perspective.
  2. Keep a food and feelings log.  Look for patterns that suggest the guilt / self-loathing / emotional eating cycle.  Make a decision to forgive yourself when you slip and to get right back on track.  List 5 healthier ways to comfort yourself.
  3. Write down all the reasons you feel undeserving.  Refute each one as if you were encouraging a close friend who was struggling with similar issues.  Consider working with a therapist if low self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness have kept you from success in many areas of your life.

Check out Part 2 here

(Part 1  –  Part 2  – Part 3  –  Part 4  –  Part 5  –  Part 6)

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