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Self-Sabotage


QUESTION:

Whenever I get close to my goal weight, I seem to sabotage my efforts.  I'm frustrated with myself for doing this.  I know I want to be thinner, so why do I ruin everything just as I'm about to reach my goals?

ANSWER:

Don't be too hard on yourself.  This self-sabotage phenomenon is quite common, especially when goals are within short reach.  What it usually indicates is that you have not yet fully realized the difference between wanting to be thin and actually being thin.

Living with the daily desire and dream of wanting to be thin can be all consuming.  It not only causes one to put their life on hold, it gives an excuse for not fully living in the moment and provides a scapegoat for all things gone wrong.  When you're overweight, it's easy to make excuses for why a given situation didn't go well.  "If I wasn't overweight, then he would like me." Or "I can take that chance on a new career once I lose weight."  It's a comfortable fantasy without risk.

However, when you actually reach your goal weight, a primary self-protection mechanism is gone.  The excuse that weight once offered is no longer valid.  It can be a scary and unnerving situation.  You have reached the goal of being thin… the one thing that you have been waiting for and dreaming of for years.  This situation can leave you feeling vulnerable and scared.  If things don't work out, then who or what is to blame?

Geneen Roth put it wonderfully when referring to some thin friends of hers: "It occurred to me that they were brave to be thin.  It was as if, in being thin, they were revealing the bones of themselves.  They were wearing their insides on the outside, where everyone could see and either accept or reject them."1  It does take courage to live your life and roll with the inevitable punches that will occur.  You can do this without being thin.  Start now and the transition won't be so difficult once you reach you goal weight.

To work through this, start by assessing what role that fat plays in your life.  What positive aspects does it offer you?  How does it protect you?  Can you find alternative ways to protect yourself without hiding?  What does being thin mean to you?  What internal qualities do you have?  In your mind, can you maintain these qualities and still be thin?  If not, why?  Does being thin threaten you in some way?  Why?

Self-exploration takes time and patience.  However, the result can be once and for all getting past those unconscious beliefs that are holding you back.  If necessary, there are many resources that can help you work through some of these issues, including many helpful Web sites, books, and professionals such as registered dietitians and nutritionists.  Be patient and trust in yourself that you can resolve internal conflicts by facing them and working through them, one by one.

1  Roth, Geneen. Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating, 1984.

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Our expert, Dr. Sharon E. Griffin, holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in the areas of exercise science/physiology.  She also holds a second M.S. degree in Nutrition and is a licensed nutritionist and an ACSM certified health and fitness instructor.

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