Mikkipedia is an exploration in all things health, well being, fitness, food and nutrition. I sit down with scientists, doctors, professors, practitioners and people who have a wealth of experience and have a conversation that takes a deep dive into their area of expertise. I love translating science into a language that people understand, so while some of the conversations will be pretty in-depth, you will come away with some practical tips that can be instigated into your everyday life. I hope you enjoy the show!
Hey everyone, it's Mikki here. You're listening to Mini Mikkipedia on a Monday. And this Monday, I want to chat about self-sabotage. It is something that comes up a lot in clients and in people I talk to who see success and then for whatever reason, with their fat loss, they are unable to sustain it. But more than that, they actively work against their values and what they really want.
and they sabotage their own behaviour and do things that cause them to either regain the weight, plateau, or just make themselves feel pretty terrible. And of course, this isn't just in the weight loss arena, but that is what I'm sort of describing and chatting about today. And there are some deep psychological underpinnings to self-sabotage behaviour.
I chat about this in an upcoming episode with Dr. Jade Tita, and I'm also going to be chatting about this with my friend Karen, Dr. Karen Fasander, who's a clinical psychologist, and in another upcoming episode. But I just wanted to give some sort of practical things that might help in the moment or give you something to think about, but also an appreciation for where sometimes the logical practical
Guidelines that you see out there on social media just won't work in that moment for you So to I guess help you understand a little bit more about you know, we've got these guidelines out there But what to do with self-sabotage, but why is it that you cannot grasp them and make them work for you? So you're not feeling like a complete failure Self-sabotage is basically as explained as a self destructive behavior, which is like a biological response
So we get this boost in dopamine, which is our feel-good neurotransmitter, our motivation transmitter, by setting goals, right? But when it's time to complete them, the fear of failure can kick in and trigger something called avoidant behavior. And in order to avoid the threat of failure, we subconsciously start to shy away from our goals. And this is called the approach avoidance conflict.
Now, obviously, as I said, there are many other reasons why we self-sabotage our goal that isn't about fear of failure, but this is the element that I'm addressing today. And self-sabotaging happens when there's a mismatch between our values and our behavior. And it's most likely when we either have to do something that doesn't align with what we really want, or it might be that we know what we want, but we do something that doesn't help get us there.
You know what it's like? It's like you're at the supermarket, you've had a really great day, you've nailed everything in terms of your protein and your macros and you've had your excellent gym session and then you walk past a packet of potato chips. You don't want the potato chips. They do not help you reach your goal. Obviously, you pick them up and you buy them anyway. And of course, if they're in the house, you know you're gonna eat them. And that's like a super simple example of
how self-sabotaging can impact on our goals and what we want in the long term. The signs of self-sabotage can be really subtle and here are some ways which people self-sabotage and or some characteristics if you like. So perfectionism is one where if you can't get it perfectly you're not gonna do it at all. And it's almost like a punishment for not being able to perfectly execute the thing you wanna do.
Procrastination, which is one I feel like lots of us can relate to, is another subtle sign of self-sabotage. You know you have to get that thing done, but you leave it and you leave it to the last minute. Lack of communication is another subtle way that we can self-sabotage. Running on empty and not putting yourself first. I see this a lot with people I work with. You know, for example in Monday's Matter, which is coming up soon by the way.
There is absolutely these elements which enable success for someone. It's things like food prep. It's putting your exercise clothes the day before so you can just jump out of bed and put them on and go for it. It's actually scheduling and doing those exercise sessions. However, family life, being a taxi driver to your children, other things, work deadlines always seem to take priorities.
or we run on empty and we try and do it all and we lack on sleep. Over time, this is gonna end up sabotaging your best intentions to meet your body composition goals. Also struggling with moderation, and this isn't necessarily just related to food, you know, like I now have a teaspoon of peanut butter and suddenly half a jar is gone. Things like staying up too late and binge watching yet another episode of Rexam, knowing full well that you need
go to bed because you've got a five o'clock alarm, or it's overcommitting to things. So always saying yes to everything that comes up, knowing of course that you're unable to put your best foot forward, or unable to prioritize your own health requirements. So these are some signs of self-sabotage. What are the symptoms? So what does that actually look like? Refusing to ask for help when you need it.
Controlling or micromanaging behavior. Setting goals that are either too low or too high. So you know you're either absolutely, you know, it's a no-brainer of course that you're going to achieve it, or there's absolutely no way you can. Negative self-talk and extreme self-criticism. This comes up a lot, and particularly people I see on social media or on my Facebook pages, and they do things that they wouldn't otherwise
you know, that aren't part of a plan. And they're like, well, of course I did, I'm a fat pig. You know, people use language like that. It's terrible. Making excuses or blame shifting, undermining your goals and values, like they don't matter, constantly seeking approval and reluctance to speak up for yourself. These are all symptoms of sort of self-sabotage behavior. Now, when I was sort of looking into the subject for a nutrition coaching pod of mine,
I came across some really great techniques as to how to move beyond the self sabotage behaviour and not rise above it but you know put into place some sort of practical strategies and I just want to chat about these now and then talk about when they're not going to work. The first thing to do is to develop self awareness around it and you can do this by starting your inquiry with a sentence. I want to achieve X.
but I keep doing why. So I want to achieve my 5 kg weight loss goal, but I keep diving into a packet of potato chips. So once you identify the goal and the behavior that's blocking it, you can start to understand what the negative behavior might actually be telling you, or what is getting in the way of you achieving your goal. And the...
Important thing with this is to just write it down and write down the behavior. Don't have don't attach any judgment to this. This is just you observing what is actually going on and you may be able to pick up some patterns around this. So for example, if in the above example, you know, you want to, you want to achieve this weight loss, but you're constantly doing this thing that's preventing you like, can you change some habits and behaviors around where you're in a position to purchase potato chips or.
They're around in the house or in the staff room at work. You know, what can you do to sort of move yourself away from those situations? And then also write it down in a journal, the behavior and your thoughts around it, to then be able to speak to someone when the pattern you recognize arises. And that someone might be a nutritionist because your self-sabotage might actually be a physiological response to not managing your blood sugar properly.
having these highs and lows. Like a lot of our psychology is driven by our physiology. So don't underestimate that, even if you think that you've got it dialed in. Or it could be absolutely worth speaking to a therapist or a counselor or a psychologist about. If there are much more sort of deep underlying reasons why you're recognizing self-sabotage as an issue for you, then absolutely speaking to a professional is the avenue that hopefully you'll be able to explore. But...
Once you have the self-awareness around it, the next step is, potentially for you, is to create a plan or a personal rule for yourself to address that behaviour. Now your plan might be to speak to a counsellor, or your personal rule might be never going to the grocery store when you're hungry, never going after work when you're irritated with what's going on for the day and you want to treat yourself, you know, things like that. Like...
What is something you can put into place that takes a decision making out of it for you? So you don't have come up against it every time you're in this position where you could possibly dive into the potato chips. You just make it a non-negotiable. That's not what you're going to do. So you're setting yourself many more boundaries around that particular thing. The fourth step. So you've
got an inquiry, you've written it down, you've created a plan or a personal rule, the fourth step is mindfulness and breathing to silent the inner critic. A lot of that negative self-talk that comes up in and around weight loss and self-sabotage almost reinforces the reason why you don't think you're going to succeed. What absolutely does, the narrative you create around how you view yourself
really impacts on the next thing that you do in your actions and behaviour. Mindfulness and breathing allows you to be much more present. It can shift you out of this panicky, anxious, fight or flight state and put you into a parasympathetic nervous system, rest and digest state that then allows you to reflect on the things that you are thinking and help
move beyond that sort of point in time. It's a bit of a pause if you like. It can silence that inner voice that is telling you something different and is sabotaging your behavior. Breathing is such a well-known technique with this and even doing something like box breathing, which is breathing in through your nose for a count of four, holding it for four, breathing out through your mouth for four, and then holding it for four.
something like that, or breathing in for four counts through your nose. And if you place your hand on your stomach and you can, whenever you breathe and you can feel your stomach expand when you breathe in, it's telling you you're breathing right through your diaphragm, then breathing out for eight, which is a longer period of time. Something like that can really engage your parasympathetic nervous system. So it moves you out of that fight or flight, that anxious state,
better decision. And then the last thing is communicate. So it does mean sort of owning up about your own insecurities, which is why people can find that really hard. Like chat to a good friend. This again could be seeking out the help of a health professional to help you through it, your partner or someone where you just can then voice what's going on and
get help if you need it or even just have feel like you're not alone in this sort of self-sabotage circle. So again those five sort of steps that you can take would be to start your inquiry with the sentence I want to achieve x but I keep doing y so you can identify the goal and the behavior that's blocking it. Step two is to write it down to then be able to speak to someone
when you notice that pattern arising, be it a health professional or someone close to you. Number three is to create a plan or a personal rule for yourself. So you take that decision making out of it when you're in the moment and you're faced with this self-sabotaging behavior. Number four is using that mindfulness and breathing to silence your inner critic. And number five is communicating when it occurs.
so you don't feel like you're alone. But of course this does mean owning up to your insecurities. And all of these steps are all very well and good if you're able to use your logical mind. And this is where I feel the real problem lies with all the advice that you get online about how to deal with self-sabotaging behavior. If you can access your logical mind in the moment, then you can put into place these strategies. But it's not our logical mind that is controlling
self-sabotaging technique or behaviour. It is part of our limbic brain, it's part of our old brain or our inner child is another way to describe it, where there is no logic, it is just how you feel and that is absolutely overriding any sort of intellectual or logical thought. And if we could just rely on logical thought, we wouldn't even need to be having these conversations would we? And this is something which I will talk much more in depth with.
with Dr. Karen Fisander when we jump back online and have our conversation about self-sabotaging. But part of the self-sabotaging technique is acceptance and acknowledgement of your feelings and understanding that everyone feels this way at some point in time. You are absolutely not alone in your self-sabotaging behavior and the consequences of it. Because so much of this is us beating ourselves up.
about the fact that we've failed again and look, we're just useless and it's terrible, that it's really hard to move beyond the action of self-sabotage and then get to that place when you can understand why it happens. So acceptance will always be that first place. And have some curiosity around it. You know, I mentioned in that logical chain of actions, you know, setting up a line of inquiry, but.
Even just that curiosity of why is this happening? I'm noticing it. Be interested and do it without judgment. It's the hardest thing. We are very quick to judge. I mean, we know it in ourselves. I'm very quick to judge people, and I always find myself and catch myself doing it, and then go, Mickey, stop being so judgmental. You have these conversations with yourself about how you view other people, but seldom do you think about how you judge yourself and your own behavior, because we...
You know, and this is a really important piece of it because what we think really then impacts on our next sort of actions, you know, be curious about what's going on, but do it without judgment and have self-compassion. And that's really hard, really, really hard for some people. A physical thing you can do is, you know, actually put your hand on your heart and think, feel that compassionate warmth of your hand on your chest, on your heart.
and really sort of bring your mind to that place of compassion. This is not going to suit everyone. I'm just going to say that here and now, because not everyone can sort of follow these sort of steps that might seem a bit woo-woo or a bit too sort of out there for you. But again, it's all part of that acceptance and acknowledgement that you're just human, and you're doing the human thing. And therefore, you need to accept that of yourself. And.
you can then bring in that physical element of putting your hand on your heart and feeling the compassionate warmth of skin on skin. And grounding is another technique that you can use. Take off your shoes, go outside if you're near a beach, go to the beach, feel the sand in between your toes, or even just the grass on your feet. That can help you be more mindful and be more present in the
Throughout when you know when the behavior is happening because someone I was speaking to on Sunday said they didn't even realize they do it Until it's done. So this isn't about in the moment necessarily. It's about sort of after the fact so grounding acceptance self-compassion But also changing your physical state and I think this is something which is known as a DBT Behavior and this is definitely something I'll be chatting to Karen about more because we chatted about it whilst I was telling her I was
doing this segment and having a conversation with my nutrition pod. And DBT stands for dialectical behavior therapy. And it's a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that combines strategies like mindfulness, like acceptance, but a change in physical state as well. And even putting, and putting like ice cubes on your neck, behind your ears, on your chest, causes this like...
change in your physical state and can sort of break you out of a self-sabotage moment or end of it or just get you changing that physical state and it can change your nervous system response as well which is why it's something that is used. So you've got acceptance, you've got self-compassion, you've got that feeling of compassionate warmth when you've got your hand on your heart, you've got grounding.
And you've got a changing in your physical state. Of course, a cold water therapy shower would be amazing, but we don't all have access or really feel like jumping into a cold shower. So an ice cube would do the trick. You can move beyond these self-sabotage behaviors. Don't feel like you're a failure if you can't put into practice the really practical, intellectual stuff that you see written in books, written online, that should theoretically help you move beyond the self-sabotage stuff.
Like it can take a little bit more than that. Our limbic brain is super powerful, that inner child, super powerful. And getting to grips with that, I think can be really helpful for some people. There is a book that is recommended actually for self-sabotage behavior. It's called DBT Solution for Emotional Eating, a proven program to break the cycle of binging and out of control eating. And I will just...
So it's recommended by Karen. We will undoubtedly talk about it in more detail when I chat to her, but it's a really great workbook. It's not overly technical and heavy on the science. This could be something to use if you recognize yourself in some of the things I chatted about today. Anyway, that self-sabotage, I'll be talking more about this in my lead-in program to Monday's Matter, which you will find out more about. You can...
Find me on Facebook @mikkiwillidennutrition, on Instagram, Twitter, and threads @mikkiwilliden. Head to my website, mikkiwilliden.com, and you can book a one-on-one with me or sign up to my meal plans. All right, team, chat soon.