Stopping Self-Sabotage

Top signs of self-sabotage and how to cope -- and win.

Diet. What diet? "I'll start again tomorrow." But that's what you said last week and the week before — this holding pattern is really getting you down.

Don't worry, you're not alone. In an early 90s study funded by the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, researchers found that, on average, American dieters have tried to lose weight before, and in fact, averaged one diet a year for the past two years.

Why the bad track record? In short, many people are sabotaging their own efforts to lose weight for good. Are you one of them? Look over the following self-sabotage signs and click on the link for tips on how to cope.

Sabotage: I deprive myself of enjoyable foods until I can't stand it, then give in and overeat them.

Antidote: "Eat the foods you like, but in small quantities," says Dr. Sharon Marks, a physician specializing in nutrition and metabolism. "If you say foods are bad, then you will start to crave them and overeat them because they are forbidden."

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Sabotage: I have all kinds of willpower until I go home and cook my family dinner. Then I can't resist our high-fat favorites.

Antidote: Opt for a lower-fat version of the foods your family likes. They'll help you along on your plan, and improve your family's health as well. Another tip: Put leftovers in the fridge or freezer before you eat. That way, you'll be less likely to go back for seconds.

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Sabotage: I sometimes skip breakfast, thinking it will speed up my weight loss.

Antidote: Set your alarm clock for half an hour earlier so there's time to eat well and energize yourself for the day. "If you skip breakfast you'll be more tempted to reach for a doughnut in the morning," says Marks.

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Sabotage: I often lose my willpower at parties and restaurants.

Antidote: Try these tips:
  • Share an entrée and dessert with your partner, or order a salad for starters and have a cappuccino for your third course.

  • Opt for meals cooked using low-fat methods such as grilling or stir-frying.

  • Park your car a 15-minute walk away so you can burn calories while getting to the restaurant.
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Sabotage: When I'm dieting, I weigh myself several times a day.

Antidote: Limit weighing yourself to once a week at the same time of day. "Weight can fluctuate according to time of day and menstrual cycle," says Marks. "So pay attention to how you are fitting into your clothes and use a tape measure to see if exercise is helping you take inches off your body measurements."

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Sabotage: I often eat while working, reading the newspaper or watching television.

Antidote: Set yourself some ground rules, like "I don't eat in the car or while I'm watching television" — eating on the run is a surefire way to lessen your satisfaction with food.

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Sabotage: I get frustrated when I don't lose weight right away, and usually just give up.

Antidote: Make "slow and steady" your diet mantra. "If it's going to be maintained, then the maximum weekly weight loss should be one to two pounds," says nutritionist Rosemary Stanton. "If that doesn't sound like much weight loss, empty out two tubs of margarine onto a plate and you'll realize how well you're doing."

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Next Steps