As we engage in a journey of losing weight, most of the time, we’re already sabotaging ourselves without us even knowing it.
We tend to restrict ourselves of what should be and what shouldn’t. We work so hard to the point that we’re already running after perfectionism, not effectiveness.
“It’s as if I’m not capable. Why can’t I lose weight?”
“I cannot afford to eat more. I’m afraid I won’t be making any progress.”
You sabotage your success each time you’re approaching this without self-acceptance and a new mindset.
Be in for a treat as we learn how we can avoid setting ourselves up for disappointments. Join Dr. Adrienne as she educates us about our saboteurs today.
Dr. Adrienne Youdim is a board-certified Internist and is the host of the podcast Health Bite. She specializes in medical weight loss and nutrition, and she is aiming to transform the weight loss narrative into one that is both empowering and compassionate – inspiring people to live more physically and emotionally fulfilling lives through evidence-based strategies that actually show results.
Through her podcast, Dr. Adrienne debunks all myths in the current weight loss culture and supports people in living the life they deserve as they work on becoming the best version of themselves.
In this episode, Dr. Adrienne enumerates the top 10 ways in which we sabotage our weight loss goals as she shares tips on what we should do in order to avoid that sabotage.
What you will learn from this episode:
“Awareness is the first step. Once you’re armed with the knowing, then you can set your mind on the doing – doing the work necessary to prevent your saboteur from taking hold and sabotaging your success.”– Dr. Adrienne Youdim
“I have often said that our relationship with food is really a mirror; it is a symbol of our relationship with ourselves. And it holds true in terms of our saboteurs as well. The ways in which we sabotage our weight loss goals often mirror the ways in which we sabotage ourselves.” – Dr. Adrienne Youdim
“Keep in mind that we need not be perfect in order to be effective. Strive for effective, not perfect.” – Dr. Adrienne Youdim
My new book Hungry for More: Stories and Science to Inspire Weight Loss From The Inside Out is now available! If you’d like a hardcover, personalized, autographed copy with free shipping, use the code freeship at hungryformore.net.
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Transcript - 10 Tips on How You Can Stop Sabotaging Yourself During Weight Loss and Beyond
So this week, we're talking about the top 10 ways in which we sabotage our weight loss goals.
I have often said that our relationship with food is really a mirror; it is a symbol of our relationship with ourselves. And when we start to notice our patterns in how we relate to food, and change those maladaptive patterns, we start to notice that those changes can trickle out into every aspect of our lives. And I have seen this day in and day out in my own medical practice, working with clients every day over the last, almost 20 years. And it holds true in terms of our saboteurs as well. The ways in which we sabotage our weight loss goals often mirror the ways in which we sabotage ourselves. Period.
So as we talk about these top 10 ways that I have noticed, the patterns that I have noticed in talking with people over the last two decades, and have noticed, quite frankly, in my own life, I wonder if you can see these patterns in your own life, in your own relationship with food, your weight loss journey, and again, in the ways that you handle other aspects of your life as well.
I hope that this episode is going to give you some food for thought and some inspiration, empowering you to make actionable changes in your own life.
SABOTEUR #1: LET THE OLD BAGGAGE GO AND HAVE A BEGINNER’S MIND
So saboteur number one is old baggage.
It is hard to start any new endeavor without thinking about the past. Invariably, past weight loss attempts, past successes, past failures, past loss and regain will come to mind. And clinging to our past, whether it is a good attempt or not, will keep us from fully participating in this present moment. It will invariably sabotage us by comparing to past attempts.
There is a concept I've talked about before that is well-spoken of in Buddhist practices of mindfulness, martial arts in Tai Chi, and many other practices, which is called the beginner's mind, and what it asks is that we invoke a beginner's mind with every new day, with every new practice, with every new opportunity. And essentially, it means that we pretend or act as though we're doing the thing for the very first time. In doing so, we let go of the past, we let go of old baggage, we bring with this particular moment and opportunity a fresh perspective and excitement like a child as if doing it for the first time. And when we can bring the thoughts of a beginner's mind to this particular moment, to this unique moment, we are enabling ourselves to give it our all, to give it 100%, to give this moment and this opportunity the chance of its own success.
And so the first saboteur that I want you to contemplate and consider is letting go of old baggage and approaching this weight loss attempt or this attempt period, whether it's giving up smoking or giving up alcohol, whether it's starting a new hobby or a new habit, whether it's starting a new job or a new prospect, bring with it a freshness of beginner's mind, and in doing so, let go of the past and let go of old baggage.
SABOTEUR #2: STRIVE FOR EFFECTIVE, NOT PERFECT
The second saboteur is perfectionism.
When we strive for perfection, a perfect diet, a perfect exercise routine, a perfect x, y, and z, we invariably set ourselves up for sabotage. Because you see, perfectionism or perfection is, by definition, an unattainable goal. We all know, and we often tell our children, that there is no such thing as perfection, and yet when it comes to ourselves, we continuously strive for perfect. But once again, when we strive for perfection, again, an unattainable goal, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We are setting ourselves up for sabotage, because it is unattainable. And when we experience failure, we feel defeated. The more failure we experience, the less likely we are to move on, the less likely we are to continue, the less likely we are to be resolved in our attempt. And so, it withers away at our resilience.
Keep in mind that we need not be perfect in order to be effective.
And I see this again, time and time again.
A client or patient will come in and will describe a perfect week, which is followed by a terrible weekend. Perhaps, they went on vacation or went on a binging spree or merely ate a meal or a dessert that they had not intended to, and by doing that, feel defeated and may even throw in the towel. When we get on the scale, we find that lo and behold, despite this diversion, that nothing has happened, that perhaps, they have maintained their weight, or they've even lost despite that “transit regression”.
So, remember that we don't need to be perfect in order to be effective, and even more so, striving for perfection will sabotage us and prevent us from achieving our goals. So look for perfection in terms of your weight loss attempt, look for your tendency towards perfection when you initiate new habits, and see how that desire for perfection undermines you. Strive for effective, not perfect.
SABOTEUR #3: MANAGE YOUR SETBACKS WITH SELF ACCEPTANCE AND SELF COMPASSION
Along the same lines, saboteur number three is the way in which we manage setbacks.
We will all experience dietary setbacks. Again, an overly indulgent meal, vacations, when we feel that we have “gotten off the wagon”, maybe it was a hurrah in Vegas. Regardless, the problem is not so much the setback itself, but it's what we do the moment after.
I see the moment after as a fork. There's a fork in the road in which we have two options. We can either veer towards self deprecation and “falling off” or rather “remaining off of our attempt” or we can accept ourselves in that moment for the setback, for the indulgence, maybe for the mindful decision to have enjoyed something unique or unusual, and in doing so, we are able to resume and maintain our efforts.
That two pounds, three pounds, five pounds, 10 pounds, whatever the case may be, of regain we may have experienced in that dietary setback, is really irrelevant in the scheme of things. Think about it. It is so irrelevant. We make so much of three extra pounds on the scale, but in the scheme of things, it is irrelevant. And our inability to see that for what it is, our inability to manage those setbacks with self compassion and ease is the setback. It is the very thing that will sabotage us from persevering.
So, saboteur number three is managing our setbacks with self acceptance and self compassion.
SABOTEUR #4: GOALS? YES! SELF ACCEPTANCE? DOUBLE YES!
And now, I am bleeding my saboteurs into each other, because number four is lack of self acceptance.
It is one thing to have a desire to do better. It is one thing to set goals. But it is quite another to be unaccepting of ourselves, to be self deprecating, self loathing, and unable to see ourselves for who we are in this very moment. In fact, the studies show that lack of self acceptance makes us less likely to engage wholeheartedly in our attempts for change. It prevents us from truly engaging in and being effective in implementing habit change.
So being self accepting of how we are right now is not incongruent with our goals. You can accept yourself, love yourself, have respect, kindness and compassion for yourself as you are right now, without any conditions. You can love yourself unconditionally for who you are in this moment, and yet strive to do better.
So, as I always say, goals, yes, self acceptance, double yes. Be self accepting of who you are right now, in this moment, and allow yourself to use all of that power and energy into the effort required for sustainable change.
SABOTEUR #5: YOU ARE AS CAPABLE AS YOU ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE
Saboteur number five is labeling.
By the time we are old enough to think for ourselves, we have already accumulated hundreds of labels and self limiting beliefs. By the time we are old enough to covet each other's Louis Vuitton’s, that number turns into thousands.
We label ourselves in terms of who we are, how we act, what we can achieve, how we believe ourselves to be. We label ourselves as not the athletic type, not the fit type, not the thin type, we're not strong enough, capable enough, strong-willed enough. And as a result, we limit ourselves in our opportunities. We don't dare to challenge ourselves, to challenge those beliefs. And in doing so, we play small; we prevent ourselves from growing.
What if we dared to imagine? What if we dared to question that label? What if we dared to imagine that we are enough as we are in this moment? Perhaps we would trust ourselves a little bit more, stretch ourselves a little bit more, and in doing so, allow ourselves to achieve a little bit more.
You are as capable as you allow yourself to be.
So, question your labels, challenge your self limiting beliefs, and don't allow this saboteur to get in the way of your best self.
SABOTEUR #6: DON’T TRY TO OUTRUN YOUR DIET; YOU CANNOT
Saboteur number six: trying to outrun your diet.
How often have I heard, how often have I had a patient come into the office and share with me that they have been exercising with a trainer for the last six months, have not lost an ounce, and have therefore decided to give up and give up on the trainer?
A few things.
Number one, exercise is rarely associated with weight loss. It is very much associated with weight maintenance, which for anyone who has ever tried to lose weight in their life, will know that losing weight is one thing, maintaining that weight loss, woof, that is quite another. So anything that helps you maintain, I would argue, is just as important as the things that help you lose; the strategies that help you lose.
But in addition to that, exercise and movement has so many other benefits. Mental health benefits, emotional well being benefits, and benefits your body in terms of helping you prevent almost every disease, including metabolic disease, heart disease, diabetes, depression, multiple cancers including breast, colon, and ovarian in cancer, dementia, Alzheimer's disease. Yes, exercise will do all of those things.
But I got off onto a little bit of a tangent, because when it comes to weight loss, if we use that as an excuse or a strategy to eat whatever we wish, we will not achieve weight loss, and ultimately, we will sabotage our weight loss attempts. You cannot outrun your diet. Your exercise is complementary. It is not an excuse to eat what you want or anything that you want. It is not an excuse to – what is it that I often hear – reward yourself with food.
And by the way, what is that reward?
Oftentimes, I'll hear patients tell me that. They had a great workout and then they ‘rewarded’ themselves with some indulgent food, after which they felt like crap.
So, I’ll ask you. Is that really a reward?
Over eating past your hunger, feeling bloated, heavy, indulgent – is that really a reward?
So again, let's question these beliefs, let's question these lies, essentially, that we've told ourselves, and let's remember that we can't outrun our diet. Don't sabotage yourself by compensating for that exercise.
SABOTEUR #7: IF IT SEEMS FAKE, THEN BELIEVE THAT IT IS INDEED FAKE
Saboteur number seven is falling for fake news.
My God. There is so much fake news out there. Cleanses, fasts, detox, keto sticks, gluten free, gut busters, metabolome boosters. Seriously? If it sounds too outrageous, too ridiculous, too good to be true, then know that it is too outrageous, too ridiculous, and too good to be true. If these things worked, if these strategies could take the place of the hard work and intention it requires to treat our bodies well, we would not be having these conversations, right? We would just pop a pill and move on.
Doing the right thing for our bodies requires time. Doing the right thing for our bodies requires intention. And that's it. It requires us to do these things over and over and over again, knowing that one and done is not enough.
So if something seems fake, and again, there is a lot of fake shit out there, then believe that it is fake, and don't sabotage your attempt by falling for fake news.
SABOTEUR #8: BE MINDFUL OF YOUR ACTIONS; GET OUT OF AUTOPILOT
Saboteur number eight is falling into autopilot.
How often do we do things on autopilot?
Consider a non-food related situation. For those of us who drive to work every day, drive our kids to school every day, drive to the market and back multiple times a day, how often have you hopped into your car with the intention of going to your usual market and without thinking, without deciding, without remembering turning on your blinkers, you find yourself in front of the supermarket? That is acting on autopilot.
Now think about and extrapolate that to our food. How often have you munch on a bag of chips while watching TV, only to stretch your hand inside that bag and find, lo and behold, the bag is empty?
Most times, we were too checked out to even taste, enjoy, or savor that food. We haven't dialed into that experience. Same with eating at our desks during the workday or in front of our phones or computers. When we do this, when we eat with technology, when we are not mindful of our food, when we eat while we're standing, when we munch while we're cooking, we are acting in autopilot.
And there are studies to back up the negative effects of acting on autopilot when it comes to our diet. Studies have shown that we underestimate our caloric intake by up to 2000 calories per day. That is insane. That is double, in certain cases, almost double what we should be consuming in a 24-hour period. And this is not because people lie. When I share this with patients, sometimes, I see that look in their face. “Well, I'm not lying about what I'm eating.” I believe you. It's not because we lie. It's because we are too checked out. We are too on autopilot. We are not even dialed in to notice what we are eating.
So, get out of autopilot. The first step is eat with family, not with technology. Turn off the screens. Get away from your desktop or laptop or phone while you're eating. The second is sit while you eat. I don't care if it's just a handful of M&M’s or nuts that you grabbed from the kitchen jar. I want you to grab that handful, put it on a plate, and sit at a table. You will be surprised, not only in noticing all the times that you eat on autopilot without even knowing, but the times that you don't even give yourself the opportunity to enjoy that food, to savor that food, to really be mindful of your eating.
So saboteur number eight – that's my doggy. Sorry if you hear her in the background.
Saboteur number eight is get out of autopilot.
SABOTEUR #9: SET YOURSELF AND YOUR ENVIRONMENT UP FOR SUCCESS
Saboteur number nine is failing to create an environment for success.
You can have all of the best intentions, but if you don't set yourself up for success, if you don't set your environment up for success, you will not succeed. Period.
Setting yourself up for success or your environment up for success in terms of weight loss means taking a look in your pantry, clearing out all of the triggers. I know that there is a movement towards intentional eating, a movement that says that you should be able to indulge in the yummy stuff once in a while, and I wholeheartedly agree with that. However, if you have gotten into the habitual act of having sweets every single night, if you've gone into the habitual acts of consuming processed, savory snacks between lunch and dinner, then having those foods in your pantry or fridge is going to trigger that habitual response. You need to get it out of your sight while you re-train your mind and body not to reach for those usual things in that usual ritualistic and habitual way. Create an environment of success by clearing out your pantry in your fridge of all of your triggers.
The second step is replenishing that space with wholesome food. Replace those triggering foods with fresh fruit, delicious vegetables, yogurts, lean meats, and prep that food.
So, I always tell my patients, there are certain things you should always have in your fridge in your pantry.
A dozen hard boiled eggs. Eggs are an excellent quick high protein low calorie snack. Keep it in your fridge, so that when you don't have time to prep, you can grab a couple for breakfast, you can grab one for your snack, you can throw a couple into your salad for work. Take time to prep your veggies. Put in vegetables that you can roast once or twice a week. Steam your veggies and keep them in your fridge, ready to go. Same with your lean proteins. Spend some time every week to clean, prepare, grill chicken. Keep tuna and tofu in your pantry in your fridge.
Keep these things stocked. Keep your environment stocked for success and meal prep, so that you are set up to have a successful day.
In terms of meal prepping, I often recommend that the night before, while cooking or while clearing off the table after you've eaten, pull out your glass container, and right then in there, prep your meal for the next day. And if you're working from home, this doesn't preclude you. This means you too, just because you're not leaving the house doesn't mean that you wouldn't benefit from having that food made and ready and prepped for you when you're ready to eat.
So, saboteur number eight is not creating the environment for success. Create that environment by making those wholesome options ready and available for you.
SABOTEUR #10: ADOPT A MINDSET OF ABUNDANCE, NOT A MINDSET OF RESTRICTION
And finally, saboteur number 10 is having a restrictive mindset when it comes to weight loss, or anything for that matter.
When we think about it, in terms of restriction, we are innately triggered to want more.
Think about a child. Have you ever told a child not to touch an electrical outlet? It seems like every time you turn around, their finger is trying to find its way into that electrical hole. When you're told that you cannot do something, it becomes your life goal to get it, to get your hands on it. So don't tell yourself you cannot eat something, because you will be met with this drive to consume it.
Rather than a mindset of restriction, adopt a mindset of abundance. Eat so much of that which serves you, so much of that which nourishes you, so much of the foods that satiate you, so that you have less room, less space, less desire for that which does not. When you focus on what you cannot do, it will sabotage you. Focus rather on what you can do, what you will do, and in that way, prevent that final saboteur of a restrictive mindset.
So, take some time to think about these common saboteurs. These saboteurs that come up in terms of our weight loss attempts. Do any of these resonate with you? Do you notice any of these patterns in your own relationship with food? Or what about other aspects of your life? Do you notice these saboteurs taking hold there as well?
Awareness is the first step. Once you’re armed with the knowing, then you can set your mind on the doing – doing the work necessary to prevent your saboteur from taking hold and sabotaging your success.
That's all for this week.
Time is our most precious resource, and I so appreciate you spending some of that preciousness with me.
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Here's to an excellent week.
Thank you for being here, and I'll see you next week, once again, on Health Bite.