Why Do I Always Give Up? The Causes of Self-Sabotage and How to Stop it

July 3, 2021

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Why is it that just when we feel like we’ve got into a healthy, sustainable pattern of regular exercise or healthy eating, that we end up undermining our progress and giving into our cravings? Or leaning back into unhealthy habits? It’s called self-sabotage and it’s more common than you think!

Self-sabotaging is a problem I hear from lots of my clients on their journey to creating a healthier and happier lifestyle, and there are a few really good reasons why it happens! Have a read to find out why we self-sabotage and how to create truly sustainable changes that last a lifetime…

1. Our brains don’t like change

There’s nothing your brain likes more than the familiar, in fact, it’s your brain’s mission to seek pleasure and avoid pain. When big changes happen in your life like completely switching up your diet or returning to exercise after a long period of rest, your brain can register this new behaviour as unfamiliar and therefore stressful or painful. 

In a bid to return to the pursuit of pleasure, your brain will find ways to lead you back towards the familiar – what that means for you is self-sabotage. Perhaps it’s a drop in motivation to exercise, or cravings for your favourite sweet treats but these drastic changes could be the reason you’re experiencing frequent self-sabotaging when trying to implement new healthy habits. 

So, how do we stop our brains from viewing change as painful? 

Making smaller, more gradual changes is the key to implementing new healthy habits that are genuinely sustainable. Not only does it make them easier to introduce, it also means our brains are less likely to register the change as painful and instead simply be able to enjoy all the pleasure of a healthier lifestyle. 

Top tip:
Start by changing one thing a week like eating more vegetables, or trying to exercise twice. Take it step by step – I know it can be frustrating but trust me, it’s worth the extra time it takes to make the changes sustainable and feel great in yourself!

2. We seek happiness in food

After a stressful day at work or an exhausting week, we often seek something to comfort us (there goes our pesky pleasure-seeking brain again), but often what we reach for is a quick, easy dopamine hit. Dopamine is commonly found in foods that are rich in sugars and fats – foods that feel great at the time but only really fill the hole for a few hours before we crash back down and reach for the next hit. 

What our brains really need is serotonin – the
real happy hormone. Serotonin provides us with a much longer lasting sense of happiness and can easily be introduced to replace our dopamine cravings. 

Top tip:
Try getting outside, spending time with friends and getting back into an old hobby to give your brain the serotonin boost it craves.

3. We don’t have a clear vision of what we want 

Another reason why self-sabotage is so common for people who are trying to create healthier lifestyles is that they don’t have a clear vision or goal of what they want to achieve. 

When you don’t have a clear idea of what you want, or how to get there, you become vulnerable to temptation as it’s harder to find the motivation to stick to changes that are outside of the familiar. 

Try this:
Think about what you really want to get from these changes. How will they benefit your life? Write them down, make sure you really believe in them and then remind yourself of your reasons every time you’re feeling that self-sabotage creeping its way in. 

Self-sabotage can be a real obstacle for many people because it impacts our beliefs that we can succeed and make a sustainable change for life. But you can!

If you’re feeling like there’s no way out of self-sabotage then please get in touch! I offer a free 30-minute no-obligation consultation where we can talk about what you’re struggling with and put together a plan of action to make your healthy changes sustainable. 

Not ready to chat? Join my
Facebook group for a safe space to discuss any issues you’re currently dealing with and to catch up on my videos! 

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  1. […] our sleepiness most of us tend to reach for a caffeine fix or a sweet treat (otherwise known as a dopamine hit) to boost our […]

  2. […] Feeling like you just can’t make your new habits stick? Here’s why you might be suffering from self-sabotage! […]

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I'm Irina, your new health coach.

Like you, my life moves at 100mph and for years I let my health take the backseat, until I made healthy work for me and my lifestyle. Now, I want to help you do the same!

My 1:1 coaching is all about empowering, inspiring and supporting women to make life-long changes that don’t revolve around restrictive diets - let’s make healthy work for you.

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