Situations That Sabotage Your Weight Loss

When you're trying to lose weight, there may be people or situations in your life that can sabotage your weight loss goals. You will need to arm yourself with tactics to thwart this sabotage and stay on track.


How Your Family Can Sabotage Your Weight Loss

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Imagine this scenario: every few months, you announce your intention to lose weight. Your spouse rolls his eyes, figuring that you'll would become a health nut for a week before giving up. Your partner is not taking you seriously. In fact, by not supporting you, he is hurting your chances for success.

You may have experienced something similar. Sometimes it’s subtle—an eye-roll or a sarcastic comment. Sometimes it’s more damaging, creating an environment that runs counter to what you’re trying to accomplish.

Some signs of sabotage:

  • Your husband brings home a seven-layer chocolate cake to celebrate your 10-pound weight loss
  • Your wife laughs when you tell her you’re going on a diet and says, "You? Stick with a diet? Good one!"
  • Your partner, knowing you’re on a diet, takes you to a restaurant that only serves fried cheese and beer
  • Your mother-in-law frowns when you turn down her homemade gravy, saying, "My other son-in-law loves my gravy.”
  • Your mother hands you a plate of lasagna and says, “You’re too thin and I spent hours making this just for you."

Stop the Sabotage:

  • Communication. Talking to your partner or family member who is sabotaging your effortsmay be enough to make her aware of what she's doing.
  • Ask for support. People will often respond better to a request for help rather than an attack.
  • Use your strength. If you can’t get support, draw on your own strength to keep going in spite of it. Keep a food and exercise journal and remind yourself of your goals. In the end, you’re in charge of your own choices. People can make those choices harder for you, but they can’t make them for you.

How Your Friends Can Sabotage Your Weight Loss

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Have you ever had that friend who looks over your meal at a restaurant, cocks an eyebrow and says, "Are you sure you want to eat that?"

We’ve all known people like that, but these people can also end up sabotaging your weight loss. Just like family members, friends can sometimes feel threatened by your weight loss, afraid that you’ll look better or that you’ll move on to a different circle of friends. They may even feel jealous that you're changing your life and moving forward while they're standing still.

Some things a sabotaging friend may say or do:

  • "Boy, I feel fat today. Do I look fat?" The problem? She’s thinner than a toothpick while you’re several pounds overweight.
  • You’re at a restaurant and your friend digs into a juicy burger, saying, "I don’t know how you can eat that salad. I would just die if I had to eat that all the time."
  • You mention you’re joining a gym and your friend says, "I heard that exercise can actually make you fat. Oh, you haven’t heard that? Well, I’m sure it won’t happen to you."
  • You’re at a bar and mention you’re on the wagon to lose weight. Your friend shouts, "A round of tequila shots, bartender! Hey, just one drink won’t hurt, right?"
  • You're on the way to the gym and your friend calls with an emergency. You skip your workout to help, only to find out her 'emergency' was not wanting to watch American Idol by herself.

Stop the Sabotage:

  • Have a heart-to-heart. Like your family, your friend may not know what he’s doing. Telling him that you need his help to lose weight may make him more supportive.
  • Distance yourself. If your friend doesn’t change her behavior, you may need to take a breather from that relationship.
  • Find support elsewhere. Whether it's a support group or another friend who's trying to lose weight, find people who are on the same page and can help you keep those healthy habits.

How You Can Sabotage Your Own Weight Loss

While family and friends can sometimes threaten your weight loss goals, your toughest critic is probably yourself. Most of us are hard on ourselves and more critical than we would ever be with anyone else. However, being too restrictive and unforgiving can actually backfire. We all need a little wiggle room and taking that flexibility away can make you feel like you’re being tortured rather than enjoying your workouts or healthy diet choices.

Some ways you might sabotage yourself:

  • Having unrealistic expectations: "I should get started on my diet right now if I want to lose 50 pounds in the next three weeks."
  • Following an overly restrictive diet: "Lemon juice and cayenne pepper for every meal? Perfect!"
  • Doing too much exercise too soon: "I should be able to handle exercising for two hours every day at 4 a.m., right?"
  • Overbooking yourself: "Sure I can make 400 cupcakes by tomorrow morning for a classroom event! Oh, heck, I can do that if I skip -- well -- everything."
  • Giving excuses for not following through: "I would've done my workout but that sock drawer won't organize itself, will it?"
  • Setting impossible weight loss goals: "My goal is to be the same weight I was before I had six children."

Stop Sabotaging Yourself:

  • Set realistic goals. Giving yourself permission to lose weight slowly and safely will help you focus less on results and more on the important decisions that will get you there.
  • Ditch the excuses. All of us can think of some excuse for not exercising, but there are even more reasons to follow through. Spend your energy thinking of how to get yourself moving rather than how to avoid your workout.
  • Give up on weight loss. Focusing on a slow-moving scale can be frustrating. Turning your attention to other, more meaningful goals, may motivate you more while helping you lose weight.

How Your Vacation Can Sabotage Your Weight Loss

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Sometimes it’s a person who sabotages you and, other times, it’s a situation -– like a long vacation where anything goes. Too often, we look at a vacation as license to ditch every healthy behavior we’ve been following. After all, isn’t a vacation supposed to be about enjoying life? Who wants to follow a diet or workout on vacation? The problem with that kind of thinking is that you can easily blow all your hard work and, while it may be fun at the time, you may regret it when you get back.

Some ways you may sabotage yourself:

  • Eating everything in sight. It feels good not to have to count every calorie, or eat a salad when you’d much rather have the fried cheese sticks.
  • Drinking everything in sight. Vacations make it suddenly acceptable to drink in the middle of the day -- and the afternoon -- and all night.
  • Too much lounging. Resting can be a good thing, but many of us use a vacation as an excuse to do so much nothing that even walking from the hotel room to the beach seems like an effort.

Stop the Sabotage:

  • Plan ahead. Plan things that are both active and fun in between your lazy days. Long walks on the beach, bike rides or a snorkeling trip can be great for moving around without feeling like you’re exercising.
  • Try short workouts. There are a variety of short workouts that will keep you fit without cutting into your vacation time.
  • Think moderation. Tropical drinks like piña coladas have tons of calories. If you do drink, go lighter with wine, light beer or alcohol with no-calorie mixers. Enjoy good food, but treat yourself to just one or two high-calorie choices a day, making your other foods more healthful.
  • Plan for a little weight gain. Even if you do make good choices, you may gain weight simply because you’re off your regular routine. Use that as motivation to get back on track when you get home.

How the Holidays Can Sabotage Your Weight Loss

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Staying fit and avoiding weight gain is hard enough without adding the free-for-all attitude that accompanies the holidays. Even worse, many of us are subjected to temptation for weeks at a time. Add in the stress of cooking, shopping, socializing and parties and you barely have the energy for your workouts, much less the time.

Some situations you may encounter:

  • You show up at a party, ready to graze on carrots and tree bark. You look across the room and -- wait -- is that your ex hanging on the arm of someone better looking than you? You black out after nosediving into the dessert table.
  • You vow to have one drink at your office party to save calories. Three shots of tequila later, you realize dancing on the conference room table is a good way to burn off those extra calories.
  • You’re so busy, your most intense workout involves circling the mall for a parking space.
  • You look up how many calories you can burn wrapping gifts and find out you need to wrap 5,416 presents just to burn off that cup of eggnog you had last night.

Stop the Sabotage

  • Prepare yourself. Holiday parties will happen and they will always include high calorie foods. Set up a party routine to help you stay on track: Eat a light meal beforehand, choose one or two treats to indulge in at the party, drink a glass of water for every alcoholic drink and stay as far away from the food as you can after you’ve eaten.
  • Keep exercising. No matter how busy you are, make time for exercise, even if it’s just ten minutes at a time. You’ll manage your stress while keeping some semblance of order amidst the chaos.
  • Find some support. If you’re having trouble saying no to temptation, enlist a friend to help steer you away from bad decisions. Have her meet you for workouts or get between you and the buffet table at the next party.

How the Office Can Sabotage Your Weight Loss

Tiny, airless cubicle? Check. Hours of tedious work with an annoying boss? Check. Box of donuts available at all hours of the day? Check.

The office can be one of the worst places for weight loss sabotage. Even if you enjoy your job, you’re bound to get bored and tired, leading you to that mid-afternoon need for a pick-me-up. Add the fact that you’re sitting for most of the day, and you have a recipe for weight gain.

Some situations you might face:

  • Parties. Birthdays, someone’s new baby...there always seems to be a reason for cake and you don’t want to be a party-pooper, do you?
  • Meetings. It’s possible to sit through a boring meeting without eating one of those 2,000-calorie cinnamon rolls, but it smells so good and you’re so hungry and your boss is droning on. Just one won’t hurt, will it?
  • The donuts. In my office, we always had that one guy who brought a box of fresh, steaming Krispy Kreme donuts every day. Even donut-haters couldn’t resist.
  • The candy dish. Walking by the receptionist’s desk, you can feel the magnetic pull and a handful (or three) of chocolates doesn’t seem like a big deal at the time.
  • Eating out. When everyone orders the deep-fried double cheeseburger special, it’s easy to follow along under the theory that, if you all do it, it doesn’t count.

Stop the Sabotage:

  • Keep healthy snacks. Fruit,nuts, or string cheese will satisfy your hunger and keep you away from the junk.
  • Bring healthy foods. Consider bringing fruit to meetings. Even if you catch flack for it, better that than an extra 5 lbs.
  • Ask for help. Tell your co-workers that you are trying to make healthier choices or health behavior changes. They may be willing to support you in different ways.
  • Stay active. If you’re creative, there are ways to exercise at work without your boss knowing about it. Try this office workout or these stretches right at your desk.

How Stress and Emotions Can Sabotage Your Weight Loss

Of all the eating we do every day, emotional eating can be the worst for sabotaging our weight loss. When we feel bored, lonely or stressed, the kitchen is often our first refuge and we usually aren't reaching for the carrot sticks.

Food, especially of the junk variety, can be a natural pick-me-up when you're feeling down, but it can easily add extra pounds, making you feel even worse about yourself. Even worse, the best laid healthy plans can go right out the window in the face of stress or boredom.

Some scenarios you might face:

  • You spend an entire day working on a presentation about synergistic restructuring of customer-based initiatives. Hours into the project, you're so bored you've used all your change to buy candy bars from the vending machine. When you run out, you consider panhandling for more.
  • You're home alone watching bad reality TV and feeling lonely. You're almost desperate enough to call your mom to talk, but realize you'll get less guilt if you inhale a bag of Doritos and a bottle of wine.
  • After a long day, you're exhausted but determined to make a healthy meal. The pizza delivery boy drives by and, before you can stop yourself, you're running into the street, waving a $20 bill and screaming for him to come back.

Stop the Sabotage:

  • Keep a food diary. Habitually writing down what you're eating makes it easier to notice what triggers emotional eating and help you avoid it.
  • Have a backup plan. Make a list of things you can do when you're bored or lonely -- take a walk, call a friend, brush your teeth, clean out the junk drawer, etc. When you want to eat to make yourself feel better, do just one thing on your list and you may bypass the urge.
  • Explore new options. Come up with things you can do on a regular basis to reduce stress or beat boredom. Make food your last resort instead of your first.
  • Keep nutritious foods on hand. Stock up on foods that align with your nutritional goals. You may also want to do some easy meal prepping ahead of time so when you come home tired or bored, you don't have to think about what to eat.
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