Are You Self-Sabotaging Your Fitness Results? How To Know & How To Recover

About 5 years ago this time, I told my husband that I would have a 6-pack for the summer.

That 6-pack didn’t happen then, nor the years following. Though each year I have again made the bold statement, “THIS year, I will have a 6-pack by time summer rolls around.”

Yesterday, Dan looked up from dinner and asked me… “so are you going to have a 6-pack this year?” Then he rolled his eyes, chuckled, and continued eating.

Yes, I did want to slap him for a split second, but I refrained. Instead, I took a deep breath, and realized he was right. <– Which I hate! 


Perhaps the closest I have been… on our honeymoon 2010

For the past 5 years, I have chickened out of my goal. I deserve to be mocked. I haven’t taken action though my mouth keeps spitting out this same goal, year after year.

And why?

Because I’ve been self-sabotaging myself. And not with just one act of self-sabotage either, with many!

And maybe you have to. It’s normal. Maybe you’re not quite sure yet if you’re a self sabotager and at this point, you’re saying… Nope, not me. I haven’t hit my goals but that’s not because I’m purposing not trying to.”

And I promise, I hope that’s not the case. But we’re about to find out.

But first things first…

Why Do We Self Sabotage?


What is it that has us working against our goals? Against ourselves?

Well, for one… change is hard.

–> We Don’t Like Change. 

Change is hard. But to see a change in ourselves, we have to make a change (or two) to make it happen. That action to set change into motion is difficult for many of us. We don’t want to give up post dinner desserts, we don’t like to acknowledge that our daily Starbucks could be adding the calories up, we don’t like to think that perhaps our workouts aren’t at the level that our bodies need.

So we keep doing what we’re doing, and wondering why the hell nothing is happening.

–> We’re Scare Of Accomplishing Our Goals.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s the truth. We’re scared of what can come from success. What will be your next goal? How will people react? How will you react? Will you be satisfied? Will your husband be thrilled or a bit jealous?

Those questions… those internal fears lead us to subconsciously holding back.

–> We’re Not Ready.

And sometimes it’s simply a matter of not being ready. You say you’re not happy with what you see in the mirror, that you want to drop a few pounds or get a bit stronger… but unless you’ve had that “enough is enough” moment, then maybe you’re not really ready yet.

And that’s okay. Wait for the moment to come, then you’re able to really dive in and dedicate yourself.

How Do We Self-Sabotage Our Fitness Results? 

There are several different ways we do this. It depends on your goals, but here are the most common self-sabotaging acts I’ve seen over the years, both from myself, clients and friends.

Sabotage 1: I did great all month, now I can relax for a bit. 

stress eating

I splurge = great. 3 splurges/day = not so great.

It might have been a full month, a full week, or perhaps a full day, but you stuck to a plan and saw results. Now you feel that you deserve some freedom, some time prize for being on top of your goals.

In your head, you’re thinking, wow, I lost 5 pounds this month… I am going to relax and eat whatever I want this weekend! I deserve it.

The weekend goes a little crazy, and before you know it your relaxed activities follow you into the week. Those 5-pounds find their way back on in a matter of 2 weeks. Back to square 1.

–> How to recover?

First, you should be proud about seeing progress. But that doesn’t mean you deserve to treat yourself with food. Food is not a reward. Instead, go get a manicure, pedicure, heck, buy a new fitness outfit! But tell yourself, that your body feels great and it’s because of the amazing fuel you’ve been providing for it.

Remind yourself how you’ll feel after indulging in too many reward-foods… it never ends feeling good! Which is why, I don’t eat fried food!

Sabotage 2: I want to be toned, but I don’t want to eat to be toned. 

Looking At Your Food Pictures

This is my problem. For years, I have wanted a body like those that grace the cover of Oxygen Magazine. Laugh all you want, but it’s true. Why don’t I have that? Because to grow muscle, you have to feed muscle.

When you’re a calorie counter (even if you don’t actually write down calories), eating for muscle growth can be hard. For years, I have wondered… what’s going on? I lift heavy, I lift smart… why don’t I have more muscle mass? It’s because I’ve been self-sabotaging by refusing to eat the necessary food!

I am proud to report, that for the past 3 months, I have significantly increased my calorie intake and have in fact, seen more muscles!

–> How to recover?

Stop thinking of food as food. Think of it as fuel. Give your body premium gas and it will run/build like it’s suppose to. Pair that with a balanced workout that includes both cardio and strength training, and there should be no fear attached.

And the second part of recovery is to ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that can happen? If I up my calories and see my body getting “soft”, then I can stop and go back to the old style of nutrition and exercise. No harm done!

Sabotage 3: There is a thing as too much exercise.

Women Learning A New Workout 

Exercising burns fat, so a lot of exercise must burn a lot of fat, right? Or sometimes it just comes down to loving exercise so much that you can’t imagine taking a day off.

You might think you’re doing your body good, but you’re not. You’re putting it under stress and it’s not getting the time it deserves to recover, rebuild, and show off your results.

I know some people might think… exercising too much is causing me to sabotage my results? That’s crazy.

But it happens, it happened to me, it’s happened to many around me. I try to remind clients that muscles don’t tone up during a workout, they tone up after a workout is done, while they are recovering.

–> How to recover?

If you don’t remember that last time you took 3 straight days off from working out, then that’s a sign. Take 5 days off from structured workouts. Go for walks and bike rides. It’s okay to be active, but don’t follow lift a weight or run a hard mile. Rest. I recommend a few days of rest every 3-4 months of intense training.

When it comes to weekly workouts, make sure to give yourself at least one complete rest day, never work the same muscle groups back to back days.

And the most important tip… listen to your body.  If you’re sore or tired… don’t beat yourself up. Take it as a sign to chill out.

Self Sabotage 4: I am doing nothing wrong.



Denial is our worst trait and it is responsible for a lot of self sabotaging actions.

Whenever a client comes to me confused about her failed weight loss, my number one question is: How is your diet going? 9 out of 10 times, they say it’s going great and that they should be seeing results.

But then as I dig a little deeper, ask a few more questions, and try to get to the bottom of it all, suddenly comments like:

“Well, I do drink sodas a lot.” 

“My husband keeps bringing home dinner.”

“I’m not measuring out portions.” 

“I snack off my kid’s plates” 

The list goes on. I’m not saying these to make anyone feel bad, but to help stop the denial!

–> How To Recover?

Be honest with yourself. Right out the issues deep down you know are causing you to have stagnant results. Seeing them right in front of your face can help stop the denial and help you take steps towards proper action.

Self Sabotage 5: It will only take a few days. 

This is my issue. I know I don’t have a lot of fat to shed to help my abs to be more predominant, so I keep pushing it off. Oh, I’ll start next week… it should only take a month or so anyways. I have plenty of time.
Or I’ve seen this a lot with ladies that only want to lose 5 pounds or so… oh it’s just 5 pounds, I’ll be able to lose that in a matter of no time.

The problem is that that time never comes around. We keep pushing it off and pushing it off, until like me, it’s a whole new year and I’m stuck saying the same thing I have for 5 years.

–>How To Recover.

Just suck it up and do it. If it is something that shouldn’t take a long time, then shouldn’t we just knock it out? Take a deep breath, and say, no more tomorrows… all we are promised is today, so I might as well start now.

That’s where I am. That’s what I am doing. Right now, right this minute. In fact, if you’re curious… I just finished a delicious spinach salad topped with carrots, salmon and an egg. Enjoyed with an apple! Then after I hit “schedule” I am going to walk out of my office, grab my kettlebell and complete 100 swings.

Wish me luck, as I am doing for you.

Do you ever self-sabotage? 


  • I sometimes self-sabotage. I definitely indulge myself more, because I reason that I ran 12 miles, or cycled for hours, so I can eat whatever I want. I should be putting more “premium” fuel in my body.

    • I do the same. Being aware and committed to change is #1!

  • This is a great post!!! I think we are all guilty of self sabotage! I am an elite athlete who likes to think she is doing absolutely everything to be the best she can be, but I will admit sometimes I make a lot of mistakes that I know deep down will come back to bite me, but I am scared.

    This is a great post to help combat those. I really need to focus on cutting back on my sweet treats, and I know my training will benefit. Thanks for the help! I really enjoyed reading!

    • I would love to talk more about your training Tina! Perhaps as a guest for my podcast!? I’ll shoot you an email!

  • i want to be toned, but i don’t want to eat to be toned – haha that made me laugh 🙂 🙂

  • I feel like runners can really self-sabotage! Now, there’s nothing wrong with a splurge or treat every now and then. I do it too… I love my froyo and my glazed gourmet donuts. Those are nice once a week, but certainly not every single day- and I’d rather splurge on something really tasty and “worth it” once a week, than keep a sleeve of thin mint girl scout cookies in my desk drawer tempting me (and eating them mindlessly while at work and not truly “enjoying” them). A lot of people will run a long run and then use it as an excuse to eat what they want for the rest of the day. You definitely need extra calories after that, but not junk, of course.

    I saw an image online that said athletes don’t “diet and exercise”… we “fuel and train”. When you start thinking of it like that, it really helps. If you work out 4-5 times a week, most of what you are eating is either helping you fuel for a workout or recover from a workout.

    BTW, great convos this morning. 6-pack abs or not, you rock and you look great… and we are really rockin’ these track workouts. Good luck Saturday!

    • It was a great run, glad we got it in! And excited to see you. This will be our anniversary run from when we met face to face, haha!

  • Sheena

    Guilty! I do a lot of this stuff, I worked hard all summer and fall and to reward my accomplishment of losing 6 lbs and my belly pooch I quit. Now I’m working out again and blaming my boyfriend for bringing home junk (in all fairness he did bring home a grocery bag of candy from the bulk barn but I didn’t have to eat it with him ><) Thank-you for the recovery tips, I'm going to implement these!!

    • You can do it! No more food rewards! We can do it!

  • Doreen Ligomeka

    I started lifting weights in December. I was then 205 pounds. Was weight training 4 times a week in the evening but was also running 5km in the morning 6 times a week. 3 months later I have just lost 7 pounds. Am I over training?

    • Yes, I would say that you’re overtraining. I would also have to look at your nutrition as that plays a larger roll in the number on the scale. The exercise tells the body what kind of weight to lose, while the calories tell your body to lose weight.

      • Doreen Ligomeka

        Will post my typical day menu.

      • Doreen Ligomeka

        I will email my typical day menu .

  • Cherie Wash

    This is a love letter to me! Thank you!

  • Marina

    Can you provide some points or guide on increasing calorie intake.

    • Extra calories can come from 2 ways – 1. eat more times throughout the day or 2. eat more calorically rich foods. For adding calorically rich foods which is my focus, I’ve been adding whole eggs to lunches, an extra tablespoon of nut butter to shakes, an extra half serving for dinner. But at the same time making sure that the foods still meet my all-natural wholesome requirements. Avocados are also great add-ins, as are nuts!

  • Such a realistic post for so many people!!!!!!! I won’t lie to you, I am a bit of a FREAK with crazy willpower (and food intolerances up the WAZOO) so I don’t struggle with a lot of these things. I think my one real big problem is that I do BUCKET LOADS of cardio every day and sometimes I simply say: THATS GOOD ENOUGH – and move on. However, I am NOW starting to STEP UP MY GAME and include weight lifting, etc – I need to! I am noticing as I get older, I NEED IT. NEED IT! And I won’t lie to you, I am so very proud that I am starting to do this more. 🙂 My muscles LOVE ME a little bit more now too! LOL

    • Yay for muscles! By the way… where the heck do you get wild boar from??

  • Kim

    Great article. It rings so true with me. I think I can talk myself out of anything, lol!

  • Jen

    My thought is ST0P beating yourself up! For goodness sake, you look fabulous, obviously healthy. Perfection shouldn’t be the goal, because it might happen for a minute but it will be fleeting. Relax and enjoy the wonderful things your body can do. Just my personal opinion after many years of trying to be perfect. I would rather enjoy a glass of wine with friends/family than show off perfect abs.

    • You are so right! Life is meant to be enjoyed!

  • Excellent post! Unfortunately I recognize myself far too easily in what you mentioned – I definitely self-sabotage! Thanks for the tips on how to handle this!

    • Thank you Sue. We can break out of it!

  • Kim

    I do self-sabotage but I’m usually 100% aware of it. I like my happy hour too much to give it up forever (Lent is long enough!!) so I know that I want ever have a 6-pack. I also read somewhere a few years back (can’t remember the source) that some people will never have a 6-pack no matter what they do – there were a number of reasons. Wish I could find that article!!

    • I am right there with you Kim. Most of the time, I just say life is meant to be enjoyed and that includes my happy hour! That would be a great article!

  • Great article Taylor. I self sabotage too. Its so weird. Maybe we are afraid of once we hit that goal, that we won’t have other goals ? Maybe that goal has become such an important and every day part of our lives, that if we reach it, we will need to find something else to fill that gap ? and we’re scared of what that will be ?

    Know of any books out there on self sabotage ? Great topic !

    • You might be exactly right! Thanks for the perspective. I don’t know any good books, but I am definitely on the look out!

  • Camille

    I totally love this. Yes, I totally self sabotage- but mostly because I am a firm believer in the 80/20 rule, and also because I don’t want to be crazy strict. I used to be a hard core runner. My life revolved around running. Eating/sleeping/training. Where I rarely took a day off. Didn’t eat candy/cake/cookies/sweets/soda/anything unhealthy for seven years. I was a machine,but I also ended up injured/ had to have surgery. Then I couldn’t run for almost a year. And I realized life wasn’t about running or about being a machine. It was to be enjoyed. Being good 80% of the time, and indulging 20% of the time. Am I in as good of shape now? Yes probably better all around physically fit. Do I have six pack abs? No. But I enjoy a variety of workouts and food and enjoy taking a day off here and there. So yes I self sabotage, but for me, it’s ok 🙂

  • This is so where I am right now. I know what I want and I know that small changes to my diet will help me to accomplish this. Right now, I feel like I’m eating healthy and don’t necessarily want to make things a little healthier by eating a salad instead of a hot dinner. I also tried making my portions a bit smaller and found myself absolutely ravenous leading to tons of snacking because I couldn’t figure out what would finally fill me up.

    I guess I have started experimenting with changing my breakfasts and snacks to see how my body reacts, but so far not much. Suck it up, right?

  • Well put. I think many of us sabotage ourselves in many different ways. I learned the hard way about muscle catabolism during a period where I was working out hard but losing muscle because I was not eating enough and recovering well. There are a lot of balls to juggle to make ourselves happy and healthy in this life and it’s not easy to find a way to do it all.

  • Selina

    Yep, been making excuses all winter! Time to knock it off, and knock it out. I managed to add 10 lbs to my normal weight this past 6 months. UGH! Also now that I am post menopausal I have the belly I never had before , Add happy hour and dinners out with boyfriend and well…. you know what happens.

    • Happy hours and boys… always causing trouble!

  • love this! so true! especially the denial and over doing the rewards, we admit that is us sometimes.

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