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.