Health Resources Library

Stop Self-Sabotage

As a Transformational Nutrition Coach, I see many people struggle to maintain healthy lifestyle habits and meet their wellness goals.  Generally, the lifestyle habits my clients struggle with the most are those related to food.  I’ve seen clients make amazing progress and then throw in the towel because of a family party, a vacation, or holiday events.  Getting back on track after a major slip seems to take a herculean effort.

It is difficult for me to watch this process, but I try to remind my clients that we all just need to focus on one decision at a time and not get overwhelmed.  I’ve seen time and again that consistent “baby” steps get us where we want to go a lot faster than inconsistent giant leaps.

Self-sabotage is nothing new for any committed person who is trying to make positive changes in their life.  In fact, just the other day I received an email from a client who was absolutely convinced that she was going to fail.  She listed all the things that would be difficult and all the reasons why she might not be able to make the necessary changes to reach her health goals.   When she focused on the size of the mountain she had to climb to get better she was overwhelmed and defeated. Instead, we chose to focus on her first few steps.  Not surprisingly, a few days later she sent me another email telling me how easy things were. Her mindset had shifted, and she was confident in her ability to succeed.

Avoiding self-sabotage requires some focused determination so here are three of the most common mistakes I see clients make, along with the solution to avoid them to help you stay on track.

Mistake #1 – Chasing Perfection

This is you if:

You stress out over whether or not the veggies in the salad are 100% organic.

Why this is a problem:

Perfectionism is possibly the most potent form of self-sabotage.  Even if you are 100% committed to do what it takes to reach your goals, life is too unpredictable to perfectly execute on your plans. Perfectionists are prone to creating so much stress around healthy eating that it can become extremely unhealthy. They focus on “fear-based” nutrition advice instead of following the advice of trusted, well-educated professionals who understand how to help them make continual progress along their journey.

The Solution:

The internet is filled with conflicting advice about nutrition so having someone in your corner who understands your goals and the conditions you are personally working with can help you navigate through the chaos. Since good health is the product of healthy habits that are sustained over a long period of time, a good coach will help you continue doing the best you can at whatever stage you are at.

Mistake #2 – Scheduling Cheat Days

This is you if:

You spend a week eating “good-for-you-foods” while simultaneously planning for everything you will save to eat on your “cheat day.”

Why this is a problem:

While “cheat days” or even “cheat meals” might seem to work for a few people, in reality, they represent a continued disordered relationship with food. Think about how twisted it is to “reward” yourself by doing something that has a negative impact on your health. Regardless of how well you have planned, the unpredictability of our day-to-day lives will create times when we can’t eat perfectly (see mistake #1). We don’t need to set aside a special day of the week to abandon all control.

The Solution:

I’d recommend that you take the word “cheat” out of your vocabulary.  Food should not be about punishment and reward.  Instead, you can categorize food by whether or not it will get you to your health goals.  Food is fuel, food is information, food either build us up or tears us down. Focus on eating a wide variety of delicious foods and allow your mind and body to adapt to a new “default setting”.

Mistake #3 – Never Making a Plan

This is you if:

You want to start eating better, you know it would help, but then “life happens” and you’re eating take-out all week.

Why this is a problem:

While being able to “just-roll-with-life” as it happens is an important skill, learning how to plan for success is also important.  When you have a plan, you can adapt it to fit the situation, and that is usually easier than starting without a plan.

Trust me, I get this.  Right now, I have two teenagers and an elderly mother-in-law living with us.  By the time you add kid’s activities and homework, meals to prepare, and various doctors’ appointments with my mother-in-law, I know that if I don’t have a plan, my life will eat me up.

If you are striving to make changes in your lifestyle habits, you’re going to have some work to do to get you there.  Success doesn’t just happen, but when you focus on a plan you’ll see progress.

The Solution:

Spend some time on your least busy day making you next week’s meal plan, shopping for food, and maybe even doing some basic meal prep. This will save you loads of time during the busy week. Some of my other favorite tips might include: planning crockpot dinners for busy days, preparing some quick on-the-go-snack-ideas so you will have some great choices while running errands. Make enough dinner to serve as leftovers for the next day’s lunch.


Choosing to end self-sabotage means choosing to accept yourself right where you are, to focus on the changes that will lead you to your long term health goals.  By focusing on your goals and making a plan to get there you can easily take those small, baby-steps, that are easiest and can actually be enjoyable.  Just remember every journey begins with a single step.

2 responses to “Stop Self-Sabotage”

  1. Mary Adams says:

    Thank you, “swimming (walking baby steps) teacher”. Ready for 9:00 Facebook!

  2. Duggar Wellness says:

    You’re welcome!