How to Stop Sabotaging Your Health and Fitness Goals

By Candice Seti, Psy.D. – July 1, 2021

Yes, it’s true — sometimes we are our own worst enemy. We may have plans, goals and dreams that we actively stop ourselves from achieving. And this can be especially true when it comes to our health and fitness goals! So, what’s the deal? Why do we engage in this form of self-sabotage and what can we do about it?

First off, What Exactly is Self-Sabotage? 

Well, it is exactly what it sounds like. It’s behaviors or actions that get in the way of your intent of goals. Simply put, it’s self-defeating behavior. Have you ever thought about a big deadline you have looming and then thought, “Let me just watch one more Netflix show first,”? Or decided you were going to go on a diet and then decided to have a binge-fest? These are active forms of self-sabotage. 

Why Would We Stop Ourselves from Achieving our Goals?

Self-sabotage sounds like a silly concept, right? I mean, if we want something, why wouldn’t we be driven to make it happen? Well, there are a lot of reasons why someone might self-sabotage. Low self-worth can be a common driver as the individual might feel undeserving of success or happiness. Desire for control is another common cause as it is easier to feel in control of your own failure than being surprised and unprepared for it. Imposter Syndrome can also often drive self-sabotaging behaviors. In this situation, the individual feels like a fraud and is plagued by self-doubt. Calling attention to their successes increases the chance of getting called out as a fake so they actively try NOT to have successes. In addition, as human beings, we actively choose comfort over a lot of things — sometimes even happiness. And even if we want to achieve something, it may feel unfamiliar or uncomfortable, so they take away a lot of the appeal. 

So, are you sabotaging your health and wellness goals?

Maybe you have a goal of achieving a certain weight, reaching a strength training milestone, or achieving a new PR on your run. Are you engaging in behaviors that might be self-sabotaging? Here are some common examples:

  • Pushing yourself way too hard in the beginning of your training program and running out of steam quickly.
  • Rigid all-or-nothing thinking with your diet that causes “rebellion eating.”
  • Not prioritizing your scheduled workouts.
  • Overeating in food after your workouts.
  • Being super rigid with your plans during the week and then letting it all go on the weekends.
  • Seeing you’ve moved closer to your weight loss goal and using that as an excuse to overeat. 
  • Choosing to spend time with people you know are bad influences.
  • Procrastinating on implementing your plans.
  • Setting unachievable goals.

Can you relate to any of those examples? If so, let’s get focused on how to overcome this self-sabotage!

Defeating your Health and Fitness Sabotage

Now that you know how you self-sabotage, it’s time to do something about it! Here are my top five strategies for overcoming your health and fitness self-sabotage:

1. If you haven’t already, find a supportive community that connects with your goals. 

Join a hiking or running group, find an online weight loss support community, or find a gym buddy. It helps to share space with like-minded individuals and have to have support and accountability.

2. Look at your self-sabotage and identify when and where it is most commonly occurring. 

Create a “pre-sabotage plan” to get ahead of it before it occurs. For example, if you find you go home after work and then talk yourself out of going to the gym, start planning to go straight to the gym from work, instead of going home first. 

3. Ensure you have realistic plans and goals. 

Setting your expectations too high can often lead to self-sabotage. Look at your plans and your goals to make sure they are reasonably attainable. If they are setting you up to have to give too much or setting you up for disappointment, they need to be adjusted to be more doable. In doing so, consider setting small achievable goals that build on one another, instead of setting one larger goal. For example, set a goal of increasing your mileage time by 30 seconds a month instead of three minutes over the next six months. This allows you opportunities to succeed and celebrate those successes.

4. Consider tracking your food and exercise. 

Try tracking your food, exercise, and how you feel (I call it a food and mood log). This will help keep you more aware of what you are eating and how much you are working out, but it will also help you connect the dots with how you feel. You may find connections with feeling better when you work out at certain times of day. Or you may find connections to feeling worse after eating certain foods. Tracking can be a great way to help connect the dots. 

5. Focus on your mentality. 

How are you looking at things? Are you so rigid in your thinking that you are not allowing for a margin of error? Doing so can set you up to give up quickly. For example, if you are too restrictive with your eating, a single incidence of eating the “wrong” food can set you up to quit. Instead, embrace an 80/20 mentality that helps loosen the rigidity to avoid the feelings of failure. Find ways to continually focus yourself on the positive and embrace all of your accomplishments regularly. It is much more motivating to hype yourself up than to tear yourself down!

Yes, self-sabotage is everywhere and we all do it in some form or another. But the good news is that there are ways to overcome it and truly achieve your health and fitness goals. So start implementing the above strategies and propel yourself forward!


About the Author

As a therapist, author, speaker, coach, and former yo-yo dieter, Candice Seti, PsyD., is committed to helping others achieve health and wellness while gaining self-confidence, stopping self-sabotage, and achieving their goals. She maintains a private practice in San Diego, California, where she works one-on-one with individuals, helping them understand their maladaptive behaviors and thought patterns while replacing them with a healthier perspective that allows them to overcome self-sabotage and thrive in their lives. She is the author of The Self-Sabotage Behavior Workbook and Shatter the Yoyo.


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