It’s an all too common experience to see people sabotage their health and fitness goals, especially when they make progress.
So how do you end your self-sabotaging ways, reach your goals, and make those overdue lifestyle changes?
Well, first you need to become aware of your self–sabotaging behaviour when it shows up.
You cannot change what you are unaware of. Awareness is the first step with any habit or behaviour change you want to make. While your self-sabotaging tendencies may frustrate you, they are merely habits you have created that just don’t serve you in reaching your goals.
You can be mad and upset with yourself all you want, but we all know this won’t do anything to change the outcome.
First, we must become aware of what these habits are, and then we can take positive steps towards changing them.
Here are the 5 ways we sabotage ourselves with our health and fitness goals.
1. Program Jumping
This is a common theme in the fitness industry, which is why “program jumping” or “program hopping” is an actual term in the industry.
Program jumping is the practice of jumping to one training program after another without giving the original program adequate time to work. Your body needs time to adapt to the stimulus you are giving it, and this comes with a lot of repetition, recovery, and time. Sticking to one program for a while allows you to make consistent progress and adaptation.
Program jumping also give us the illusion of control, and that by thinking if you “change it up” frequently and often, this will produce faster and better results.
If you are jumping from one program to the next every 4-8 weeks, then you are a program jumping and sabotaging your progress.
This isn’t to say you won’t need to make tweaks and minor changes as you progress, which is a normal part of any training cycle or exercise plan. And especially true as you get stronger, fitter, and more efficient with your movement.
But completely overhauling your program every 4-8 weeks doesn’t work, and will not speed up your results. To the contrary, it will slow them down and may even reverse the progress you have made.
A good exercise program, builds on fundamentals, and changes things when needed based on the feedback your body is providing, or once a particular goal has been accomplished. Not for changes sake.
Another important point with staying consistent on one consistent program is building fundamental movement patterns and exercise technique. Both are imperative for making progress and seeing results. It takes time, patience, and effort to build good movement fundamentals (especially if you are a beginner), something that program jumping will not support.
Exercise/training is like going to school. You can’t just skip high school, just because you “want” to go to University.
There are certain skills learnt in high school that will help you excel when you go off to university.
Training is the same thing, you can’t just skip or opt out of learning certain exercises that are key for proper movement, injury prevention, and seeing the results you want.
What will work: Find a program or style of training you not only like, but is also aligned with your goals and stick to it! Stick to it for at least 4-6 months before you reassess and make any major changes. Again minor tweaks and changes will need to happen as you make progress and improve throughout your program.
Ideally, you would want to work with a trainer or fitness professional that can monitor your progress, and determine tweaks are made along the way.
2. Thinking there is a “magic bullet”
Thinking that there is a magic bullet or an easier way is another common way we sabotage our health and fitness goals. This is what the diet industry was created on, and how the industry continues to sustain itself. The diet industry counts on the hope consumers will look for that “next magic bullet” or “new” thing year after year to lose weight.
Constantly looking for and seeking out that magic bullet actually prevents us from taking action on the tools that are already in front of us, and what has been proven to actually work.
Health and fitness success does not come from any sort of magic bullet. Sure, there are strategies that can enhance your progress and remove some of the speed bumps along the way, but it’s still going to take a lot of hard work, time, patience, and persistence to reach your goals.
There is no way around it, no matter how you cut it.
So what are some of the signs you are seeking out a magic bullet?
Here are a few:
– Looking for and researching the latest and greatest supplement that promises fast weight loss
– Jumping on the newest weight loss supplement or diet bandwagon year after year.
– Seeking out and trying the newest exercise fad each year, rather than sticking to one style of exercise/training consistently.
– Convincing yourself that if you just find that one tip/ tool, diet, exercise program, then you can achieve all of your goals.
– You have shelves of diet and exercise books, but have yet to make any real progress you are happy with. You have collected lots of knowledge, but haven’t applied any.
– You have a room full of exercise equipment and infomercial gadgets that never get used.
What will work
From coaching and working with hundreds of people, here is what will work to reaching the health and fitness goals you set:
- Getting support from your friends, family, trainers and coaches.
- Following a sound diet strategy that you can sustain, and integrate as part of your lifestyle- for the rest of your life! This includes eating whole, natural foods, avoiding processed foods 80-90% of the time, watching your portions, drinking lots of water, eating a balanced ratio of carbs/protein/fats, and leaving some room for treats and small indulgences.
- Exercising every week, with a combination of weight training, HITT training, mobility work, and core work. A minimum of 3x a week is recommended, progressing up to 5-6x per week over time.
- Setting realistic and practical goals.
- Managing expectations and understanding that progress takes time and patience.
- Staying consistent and never giving up. This means not skipping workouts, not taking long hiatuses, and rarely skipping meals or going off your meal plan for weeks or months at a time.
3. Justifying or rationalizing poor food choices
I’m not judging unhealthy eating or treating oneself. In fact, we recommend that our clients have weekly flex meals, and a little bit of splurging every week to keep their plan realistic.
But if you are going to make these choices, at least own it and take responsibility for them.
If you find yourself justifying and rationalizing unhealthy food choices, then you haven’t owned the decision, and somewhere deep down inside you know it’s not the best decision.
So how do you know if you are justifying poor food choices?
Here are some examples of things we tell ourselves
– “I deserve it, I worked hard today”
– “It’s vacation, I can eat however I want”
– “I had a tough day at work, I deserve to treat myself “
– “It’s the weekend!”
– “It’s Stampede, I’ll start back fresh next week”
– “I’ll get back on track Monday
When we justify decisions we not only make them okay and acceptable, but we never attach consequences or “costs” for making them. And because of this, we continue to make them.
What will work: We all know that complete deprivation doesn’t last, nor does treating yourself whenever you feel like it. There is a lot of room in between that we can work with. This allows us to still maintain a healthy lifestyle and enjoy some of the finer things in life.
Here is how we can find that middle ground:
- Allow yourself to have X number of meals a week that are free meals. Plan them out on specific days, and don’t have them on a “whim” or when you “feel like it” so to speak. We recommend 1-2 meals per week.
Planning this in advance avoids emotional decision- making and the potential for emotional eating, it allows you to fully own the choice, and doesn’t leave any room for rationalization or justification as it’s been thought out in advance.
- Understand that any decision you make has a cost. While there is always a benefit, there is always a cost associated with anything we decide. So, if you are going to allow 3-4 free meals a week, understand that you will slow down your progress and it will take longer to reach your goals (especially if you have a goal weight or want to lose inches).
- You may need to modify your goals. Eating 3-4 free meals a week may not be in line with your current goals. Take responsibility for your choices and own the costs associated with them.
4. You have a habit of skipping workouts
Look, we all know life gets busy from time to time, and you aren’t going to make every single workout every single week.
Things that are out of our control can and will show up, and that may mean you won’t get a workout in today.
On the flip side, always making excuses and justifying missed workouts won’t serve you either.
The more we rationalize and justify a choice, the more we make it okay and acceptable to continue making that choice. If our brain doesn’t link any sort of consequence or pain to making that decision, we will continue making it indefinitely, until we decide enough is enough.
So how do you know if you are in this trap? Well, your consistent behaviour is a sign of the habits you have.
Keep in mind, there is also a continuum with this, so we all do this.
If you find yourself skipping workouts every week, and things just keep getting in the way, or coming up, then that is a definite sign you are sabotaging yourself in this area.
If you have made it a goal to get in 12 workouts a week, and you make 11, then you probably aren’t sabotaging your success a whole lot, as you are making 90 % of the workouts you intended to. Likewise, if this number is 7-8 a month, then you are sabotaging your success.
As always, there are caveats to this. Two of which are illness and injury. If you are recovering from an illness or injury, then taking time off and not working out will be beneficial for healing and preventing future injury.
Here is what works
- Commit to a realistic number of workouts a week/month. If you consistently aren’t making 12 workouts a week, this is probably not a realistic change to make right now. Look at what you are making, and make that your goal. Then increase that to 2 more workouts a month later, or once you have made that change a habit.
- If you are motivated to hit a certain amount of workouts a week, but have a hard time making your goal, then a create backup plan for the days were you have to skip workouts due to emergencies like staying late at work, getting caught in traffic, family emergencies, etc.
A backup plan may look like this
If you get caught at work or run into an emergency, and know you won’t make it for your regular scheduled workout then commit to one of these things when you get home:
– Go for a run, bike ride, or walk for 1 hour when you get home
– Go for a sprint or HIIT workout when you get home for 20-30 min.
– Do 10 minutes of bodyweight core work including side planks, plank, leg raises, v sit holds, etc.
– If you have a home gym, do 30 min session of weight training. Consider getting a home gym with adjustable dumbbells, an adjustable bench, and TRX trainer so you have equipment on hand.
5. Setting unrealistic goals
Often times, the goals we set and the effort we assume it takes to achieve them does not match.
Most people underestimate the effort and time required to reach their health and fitness, which can make their goals unrealistic.
Empowering and motivating goals need to consider several practical limitations we all have to deal with in our life.
– Your career and the hours you work each day/week
– Current weight, and fitness level
– Current understanding and application of proper nutrition and exercise
– Your commitment and willingness to make exercise and nutrition habit changes
– How many times a week/hours you are willing to dedicate to exercise
– Body type/genetics
– Health history
– Asking yourself: what do I really want for myself and my goals? Not what do other people want or expect from you?
Most people never stop to consider these things when setting their personal goals, which leads to feeling demotivated and frustration. This is a big way we tend to sabotage our success.
What does work
First be honest and ask yourself how many hours a week you are willing to exercise and what is realistic with your lifestyle. Secondly, ask yourself what is realistic and what you are really willing to change with your eating habits. What are you truly willing to give up, and what costs are you will to bear to make these changes.
To sustainably lose weight and inches, and improve your health and fitness working out a minimum of 3x, 3 hours per week is necessary. For weight loss, you will need to increase this frequency as you lose more weight, and plateau along the way.
For weight loss, consistency with your diet is everything. You will need to eat healthy at least 80-90% of the time until you reach your goals, with 1-2 treat/flex meals per week until your goal weight is reached. Anything less than this, expect slower progress and a longer timeframe to reach your goals.
If you are consistent with all of this, then you can expect to lose 1-2 lbs. of body fat per week, on average. Some weeks may be less.
Consider all of this before you setting your goals and putting a timeline on them.
Fourth, review your expectations around achieving a certain look with your body. Comparing your body to someone else’s, and wanting to have the thighs or hips of someone who has a different bone structure, body type, and age will just leave you feeling discouraging.
This would be like a pitbull wanting to look like a poodle. As silly as this analogy sounds, this is what people do when they obsess with trying to look like someone of a different body type and bone structure from them.
Last, get clear and ask yourself what do YOU really want? What goals are important for you to achieve? Forget about what goals are important to your friends, your family, or society. Trying to achieve someone else’s dream and expectations leads to resentment, frustration, and feeling unhappy.
So define what is best for you, not what is best for everyone else.
We hope you use these tools to gain awareness around the ways you may be sabotaging your success, and things you can do to change them.
Please post your comments and questions below, as I will be answering and replying to them!