Diet sabotage—the things we do to mess up our own diets. Here are 10 ways we sabotage our own diets, and 10 ways to turn yourself from your own worst enemy into your very best cheerleader.
When you cause your won diet sabotage—when you get in your own way—it can be really frustrating. One minute you’re doing fine with your diet, and the next minute you’re allowing yourself to get out of control. Then you get upset with yourself for sabotaging your progress, and you wonder why you can’t just stop this self-destructive behavior.
The reason diet sabotage can be hard to fight is because it has both a downside and an upside. The downside, obviously, is that when you sabotage your own diet, you interfere with your progress. And you may also feel guilty afterwards.
But the upside to diet sabotage is that when you do cave in to temptation and eat something you shouldn’t, you’re momentarily rewarded. The food tastes good and you like how you feel while you’re eating it.
I bring this up because it helps explain why diet self-sabotage is such common behavior. If it weren’t for this double-edged sword, diet sabotage would be a lot easier to deal with.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to stop getting in your own way. The first step is to examine the ways in which you may be sabotaging your own diet, and then practice strategies to stop yourself. Here’s a list to get you started.
Diet sabotage #1: You skip meals or cut back too far. It’s almost logical to think that if you skip meals or cut your food intake drastically, you’ll cut out more calories over the course of the day. But it rarely works that way. Skipping meals and cutting back invariably leads to uncontrollable hunger and overeating.
The fix: Plan out how you can distribute your daily calories over three meals and one or two snacks. It’s easier to practice portion control when you know you’ll be eating every few hours, and you’ll help to break the “starve-then-binge” habit.
Diet Sabotage #2: You overeat on the weekends. It isn’t hard to undo a week of careful eating with just a few indulgences over the weekend. Your weight isn’t going to budge if you’re constantly taking two steps forward and two steps back.
The fix: Do your weekly weigh-in on Friday mornings rather than Mondays. If you’ve had a good week, it will show on the scale and will help keep you motivated throughout the weekend. You can also “bank” a few calories during the week to spend on the weekend. But be careful and know the calorie content of your indulgences. A margarita and a basket of chips could set you back several hundred calories.
Diet Sabotage #3: You reward yourself for exercising with food. Many people fool themselves into thinking they’ve burned off a lot more calories during exercise than they actually have, and they use that as an excuse to indulge.
The fix: Be aware of how many calories you actually burn when you exercise (you can find lots of resources online), and compare that to the calories you’re tempted to take in afterwards. Keep a log of the type of exercise you do and the amount of time you spend doing it. That’s the feedback and the reward you need.
Diet Sabotage #4: You don’t weigh and measure your food. Many seasoned dieters think they can “eyeball” portions and estimate calories without weighing and measuring. But it’s easy to get out of practice. If your estimate is off, you could be eating a lot more calories than you think.
The fix: Weigh and measure as often and as accurately as you can. Know how much your bowls and plates hold, too. They can act much like measuring cups to help you accurately gauge your portions.
Diet Sabotage #5: You fall for label claims without reading the nutrition facts. Don’t be swayed to eat something simply because it has a healthy-sounding label claim. Foods that are “low-fat”, “made with whole grain” or “gluten-free” aren’t necessarily low in calories or better for you.
The fix: Read the nutrition facts carefully so you know how many calories you’re getting per serving, and what nutrients you are (or aren’t) getting.
Diet Sabotage #6: You don’t give new habits time to get established. It can take weeks for new habits to take hold. But if you don’t acknowledge that, you might give up after just a few days and call yourself a failure.
The fix: First, make sure that the new habit you’re trying to establish is reasonable and something you can actually do. Acknowledge that changing behavior is a process, and that you’re going to slip into old habits from time to time. Give yourself credit for each and every time you perform a new habit in place of the old one.
Diet Sabotage #7: You let one dietary slip ruin your whole day. Your diet gets derailed and you eat something you shouldn’t. So, you just pig out for the rest of the day and promise yourself you’ll get back on track tomorrow.
The fix: You can’t change what you’ve already done, but you certainly have control over what you do next. If you’ve done some unplanned eating, put it behind you. Remind yourself that if you’re careful, you can probably still keep your calories in check for the rest of the day. Just get yourself back on track at your next meal.
Diet Sabotage #8: You try to do too much at once. If you’re a couch potato who never cooks, do you really think you can suddenly commit to running every single morning and cooking healthy lunches and dinners every day?
The fix: Set reasonable goals for yourself and prioritize them. Maybe you first want to work on your exercise regimen first and seek out healthier choices in restaurants for the time being. You can tackle the home cooking later on.
Diet Sabotage #9: You weigh yourself too often. Jumping on the scale several times a day isn’t a reflection of true weight loss. Weight naturally fluctuates throughout the day, and from day to day.
The fix: Weigh yourself once a week—preferably first thing on a Friday morning and without any clothing on. You’ll see your weekly trend that way, and you’ll be motivated to behave yourself over the weekend.
Diet Sabotage #10: You’re too hard on yourself. If you think you should be perfect—that you’ll always exercise every morning or never eat another piece of candy—you’re setting the bar awfully high. When the day comes (and it will) that you just don’t feel like exercising, or you eat something you shouldn’t, you’ll probably berate yourself.
The fix: Practice positive self-talk. Offer the same support to yourself as you would to a friend. You wouldn’t tell your friend who’s struggling with his weight, “You just don’t have the willpower. I guess you’ll just be fat for the rest of your life!” So, why do you say that to yourself? Practice talking nicely to yourself. And offer yourself support, instead of “This is too hard!” Think to yourself, “I can do this!”