Stop Tripping Yourself on Your Weight Loss Journey

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on April 26, 2022
3 min read

Sabotaging your weight loss efforts involves more than just cheating on your diet. It happens when you set goals you can't meet and when you refuse to give yourself the praise you deserve.

It doesn't have to be that way. Use this guide to turn self-sabotage into support.

You want to reach your goal weight -- fast. So you vow, “I’m going to go to the gym for 2 hours every single day!” Or, you promise yourself, “I’m going to lose 30 pounds for that wedding next month!”

Taking that approach to weight loss simply won't work. Drastic, over-the-top plans won't take you to your goal weight.

Instead, take small steps toward a realistic goal. It will keep you moving steadily forward. It may take longer than you'd like, but you're much more likely to stick with your plan.

You can set smaller goals along the way, too. And they don't all have to involve the bathroom scale.

  • Add one more day of exercise to your week, and stick with it for a month.
  • Add one more glass of water to your day over the course of a week; it will help you feel fuller.
  • Go to bed 5 minutes early every day for a week until you're hitting the sack about 8 hours before you have to wake.

Celebrate each time you meet a small goal. Treat yourself to something small (like downloading a new song) that’s not about food.

“I’ll go to the gym tomorrow at 7 a.m.,” you promise yourself.

But then a friend calls for breakfast. Or you’re running late for work. Or you’re too tired to get up early.

“I’ll go tomorrow, for sure,” you say. And the cycle of procrastination continues.

The likely culprit: fear. To start a new course, ask yourself, “Why am I afraid to go to the gym?”

The answer might be a faulty belief, like telling yourself you’re a failure or weak. You could be trying to protect yourself from the shame or embarrassment you think you’ll feel when you hop on the treadmill.

Fears come in all reasons and rationales, like:

  • You think other people will be jealous if you lose weight, and they may stop hanging out with you.
  • You believe that people will notice you more if you take action, and you're not confident you'll know how to respond.

Noticing a fear is the first step to overcoming it.

Occasional treats are fine. But if you often think of food as a reward -- when you've had a rough day, or even when you've eaten well -- that’s a red flag.

Dig a bit deeper. When you're tempted to give in to reward eating, take 5 minutes to write down what’s going on.

Think about the automatic thoughts you had. Automatic thoughts are what you say to yourself. They're how you interpret what you hear and see, which doesn't always match the facts.

When you’re upset, write down what your first negative thought was, and look at it objectively.

  • Are my feelings based on facts?
  • What would someone else think about what happened?
  • Is my reaction reasonable given what happened?

After you've had this kind of thinking, write out a more realistic thought, one with a more balanced perspective.

Finally, write what you could do next time you're upset or in a similar situation that would be more effective.