Exercise self-sabotage. What it is and how to overcome it.

Do you set yourself up to fail when it comes to exercising and eating right?

The last 2 months in the Mamamia office have been interesting. You see, a bunch of us have been doing the Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation; and apart from the occasional lapse in judgment that causes us to shove a mince pie in our faces, we’ve generally done pretty well at keeping each other on track. (It helps that I sit next to Nicky so that we can compare lunch choices and discuss how healthy vermicelli actually is.)

When I started 12WBT, I was intrigued to see how it would all turn out. I’ve had many attempts at reinventing my health and fitness over the years – each of which have ended up failing for whatever silly reasons.

There was the time I tried to give up sugar and, two weeks later, ended up gorging myself on several full-size chocolate bars. Fail.

There was the time I tried to get up every day at 5:30am to go running before work – and did it twice before giving up. Fail.

There was the time I tried to eat no processed food whatsoever… and then I ate a caramel slice literally within 30 minutes of making that promise to myself. Fail.

The list goes on. So many attempts, so many fails. Because, throughout the years, I’ve always had this little voice popping up in my head, telling me to just give up on my goals and sleep/eat the damn Tim Tams/get off the treadmill.

FYI, you should know this post is sponsored by 12WBT.  But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words.

And inevitably, I have. Despite the fact that I feel so much better when I’m fit and healthy and eating well, I’ve spent many years falling off the wagon. And I’ve never quite understood why – because there was never any real excuse for it. I would just find an excuse, lose interest, and go right back to my old, unhealthy ways.

Nat: ‘I’ve made many attempts at reinventing my health and fitness over the years’

You’ll all be pleased to know that 12WBT has been completely different. Because I finally twigged, learned exactly what that little voice in my head is.

It’s self-sabotage. Plain and simple self-sabotage.

You see, as part of the program, I get to watch clever little weekly videos that have set off many a lightbulb moment. And in one of the videos, Mish (I feel like we’re close enough to be on nickname basis by now) explained the concept of self-sabotage. Essentially: setting yourself up to fail. Talking to yourself in negative language, using destructive words. Making excuses and not holding yourself accountable to the choices you make.

“Using today’s problem as the reason why you can’t continue on your chosen journey is a flawed argument,” she explained. “In fact it makes no sense… Your mother-in-law is staying with you, so you couldn’t get up early to train? Huh? Your car broke down so you had to eat a block of chocolate and throw the whole idea in. What?”

It hit me like a wrecking ball (am I still allowed to use Miley Cyrus references or is that soooo November 2013 by now?). That is me. Today’s problems are what I used to live for.

Before 12WBT, I was far too quick to let life get in my way. The minute something came up – an injury, an appointment, an unexpected work commitment – I let my exercise and my food habits to the wayside. The minute I was tired or a bit sick or a food delivery came into the office – I told myself, “oh, it’s just this once, I’ll eat healthy and work out tomorrow.”

As Michelle points out: our choices have implications.

We all know that tomorrow never truly comes. And as Michelle points out in the video – our choices have implications. Each of them. And if we really want to change our lives, we need to recognise which of those choices are sabotaging our chances at the best possible life.

“Honest realisation is the first step in the right direction, and it’s often the tasks we are most resistant to completing are the tasks that we will learn the biggest lessons from,” she says. “Something is always going to happen. Problems arrive on your doorstep every day and will continue to do so until the day you die. That’s called ‘life’!”

12WBT is teaching me that looking after myself isn’t just for 12 weeks, or until the next problem turns up. It’s for life. I can either continue on the same path, or choose to do something about it and go about making the necessary changes.

So this is it. Admitting is the first step. From now on, I’m going to forget about my useless self-sabotaging history. I’m going to continue to give this my all and see what ACTUALLY happens.

If I fall off the wagon, there will be no negative self-talk. I’ll just give myself a pat, pick myself up and dust myself off, and carry on. No more excuses and no more feeling sorry for myself. And absolutely no more tri-coloured jellybeans, eaten just because they’re sitting right in front of me on my desk.

Over to the rest of the MM team to tell you how 12WBT lessons are helping them handle self-sabotage:


NICKY: The main thing getting in the way of me achieving my fitness goals is myself. I bounce between being a complete workaholic and total slob, so at the end of the day I mostly want to go home and sit in front of mind-numbing television. During the 12WBT I started exercising after work because it was the only time I could fit it in, but now I really enjoy going to the gym straight after work. It puts me in a better mood at home, I’m more motivated and less inclined to waste time watching tv!


JO: My family expresses love through food and lots of it. They are forever dropping off treats and leftovers. I had to stage an intervention.. I told them I appreciate their generosity but just need complete control of the food in my house until I reach my goal on my birthday. I reminded my sister that I was the one who stopped the enablers when she was losing weight and when my mum was told she was borderline diabetic, told everyone to cut back on the chocolates we all used to bombard her with. At the end of the day food isn’t love, support is love.


LUCY: The greatest forces I’ve been up against have been time and cake. Time because I never think I have enough to do the exercise I’d like to do and cake because at this time of year, everyone seems to want to give you some. To combat the time factor, I’ve been really trying to incorporate incidental exercise into my routine – for example, getting off a station earlier than I need to and walking to work. And to combat the cake thing? I just have another cup of tea… most of the time.

Over to you MM readers – Do you self-sabotage? And how do you get yourself out of it?

Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation (12WBT) is an online 12-week exercise, nutrition and mindset training program designed to transform your body and, most importantly, your way of thinking. Whether it be weight loss, running, shaping and toning, or simply a motivational boost, this program is designed for you! Over 12 weeks you’ll receive Exercise Plans, nutritious and delicious Menus, Mindset Videos and Expert Support to help you achieve your health and fitness goals.  Head to 12WBT to join the team. 

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