Overcoming Self-Sabotage on Your Fitness Journey

We all want to live healthy, active lives and achieve our fitness goals. But our mind can unconsciously undermine our progress through negative thoughts and self-sabotaging behaviours. Identifying and conquering these patterns is key to staying active and well.

The mind has a natural negativity bias – around 80% of our thousands of daily thoughts are negative. Our primitive reptilian brain is wired for survival, so it constantly scans for deficiencies and threats. Even when you make progress, your mind will tell you it’s not enough – that you should be working harder or achieving faster.

This sets up a vicious cycle – the inner critic fuels toxic comparison, unrealistic standards, and outsourcing happiness to external factors like the number on the scale or your body fat percentage. When results don’t match expectations, you feel like a failure, further confirming the negative bias. Self-criticism can then sabotage motivation and long-term goals.

It’s important to be aware of your inner critic and consciously work to retrain and quiet this voice. Acknowledge when it appears but don’t let it derail your efforts. Replace negative thoughts with encouragement and focus on the compound benefits of small, consistent steps towards your goals.

Also beware of hedonic adaptation – once you achieve a goal, the thrill wears off and your new normal becomes mundane again. Avoid constantly moving the goalposts and failing to appreciate your progress. Comparison and unrealistic standards can make you feel behind. Align your fitness motivation with deeper values versus superficial ones. Why do you want to get healthier – for your family, energy levels, quality of life? This intrinsic drive is more powerful than extrinsic motivations like appearances.

Make a holistic plan.

Prepare mentally for the off days and how to get back on track with self-compassion. Resilience and adaptability are key to long-term success.

Strengthen your mental muscle first. Without mindset work, your inner critic will undermine progress in all areas of life. Acknowledge and manage this voice compassionately as you would an unruly child. Don’t let your thoughts sabotage your aspirations.

Common forms of self-sabotage include:

  1. Making excuses to skip workouts.
  2. Adopting eating plans that promote restriction and deprivation.
  3. Lacking consistency with your program
  4. Comparing yourself negatively to others
  5. Harshly judging your body or abilities
  6. Beating yourself up over small missteps
  7. Listening to the inner voice telling you to quit

To break this cycle, first notice when you engage in sabotaging thoughts or behaviours. Ask yourself – am I self-imposing obstacles to reaching my fitness objectives? Then investigate the root causes. Fear of failure, low self-esteem, discomfort with change are emotional drivers. Reframe your inner dialogue to be more supportive, offering self-compassion. Progress not perfection is the key.

Surround yourself with positive people to cheer you on. Having trainers or workout buddies to motivate consistency. Be adaptable on off days. The ability to go with resilience is vital to long term success. Most importantly, be patient and kind with yourself. It takes practice to replace sabotaging patterns with self-care.

You have the power to create healthy, empowering habits. By recognising self-sabotage and responding with care versus criticism, you can get unstuck. Your wellbeing is worth overcoming these hurdles – you’ve got the inner strength needed to break through barriers and become your best self!

Helpful reflective questions you can ask yourself.

  1. What is the psychological discomfort I’m avoiding by self-sabotaging?
  2. Do I use excuses to avoid difficult conversations or situations? If so, how can I face them in a healthy way?
  3. How might my relationship with food connect to the stories I tell myself?
  4. In what ways could my inner narratives be sabotaging my health and fitness outcomes?
  5. How can I reframe unhelpful stories into more empowering ones?
  6. What emotions am I eating to suppress versus dealing with directly?
  7. How can I create new healthy habits to support myself both mentally and physically?

“Make sure your worse enemy is not living between your own two ears.” ~

Laird Hamilton

About the author:

Safi Abdi is a certified therapeutic coach specialising in disordered eating, emotional eating, and poor body image. She blends psychology, hypnosis, and CBT techniques in her practice.

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