Your Brain’s Autopilot is Destroying Your Diet

If you’re frequently mad at yourself for overeating, not preparing wholesome food or failing to exercise, the solution may lie in your thought processes and the words you say to yourself. Diet self-sabotage is a real thing. Read on to learn about the mind traps holding you back.

Keylime pie diet self-sabotage

Yes, it’s definitely okay to enjoy a piece of pie. It’s better to share it with others. Either way, enjoy it without guilt.

There are many obstacles to healthful eating and living. Fortunately, we can actually do something about the obstacles that are our thoughts. In a recent post, I shared 4 of several ways to break free of emotional eating. But mind traps also get in the way of healthful eating. I discuss 10 common mind traps in detail in Prediabetes: A Complete Guide. Here are just a few.

These 5 Common Mind Traps Cause Diet Self-Sabotage

Ask yourself if any of these sound like you. These mind traps are habits. Like other bad habits, it’s  possible to break the habit of these faulty ways of thinking. It takes time, self-awareness and a bunch of energy. But you really can stop (most of the time) the autopilot in your head, and the diet self-sabotage that stalls your health progress.

Diet Mind Trap #1: Justification. “I deserve this junk food or I deserve several cocktails because I’ve been working so hard (or have been dealing with so much stress).”

  • In reality, how much effort you put into your work and what you eat and drink are unrelated.

Diet Mind Trap #2: All-or-nothing thinking. “Since I didn’t stick to my plan at lunch, I might as well pick up a couple of candy bars. I can start fresh tomorrow.”

  • This is as logical as choosing to buy furniture you can’t afford because you overspent on clothing. After all, you can start fresh with your finances another time. Isn’t it much smarter to forgive your indiscretion and move on? All or nothing thinking mind trap

Diet Mind Trap #3: Catastrophizing. “I ate cake at the office party. I’ll never be good at my diet.”

  • Don’t allow your mind to interpret negative things as disasters. Slipping up on your diet plan doesn’t make you a failure at healthful eating any more than causing a minor fender bender means that you’re a menace on the road. To put your situation into perspective, ask yourself if this diet slip up will really matter in the long run. Will it matter in three months? Three weeks? Three days? Chances are pretty good that nothing you ate will matter if you allow yourself to get back on track and move on. These things typically matter only when we allow them to become bigger than they truly are, which is demoralizing and holds us back. Look at my HOP method below to stop this type of thinking.
Raise your hand if you allow any of these 5 common mind traps to ruin your diet planClick To Tweet

Diet Mind Trap #4: Ignoring the positive and exaggerating the negative. “I can’t believe that ate three fried appetizers at the party.”

  • This is similar to seeing the glass half empty. Many clients walk in to my office feeling like they need to confess their diet and exercise sins. So while they’re telling me of the “bad” things they did since our last session, I’m hearing the positive things they also did. For example, the person who ate fried appetizers passed up cocktails and dessert. I’d much rather hear her start the story with these fantastic things, so she feels empowered by the new skills she’s developing.

Diet Mind Trap #5: Focus on unfairness. “It’s so unfair that my workout partner does the same workouts I do, but looks so much fitter.”

  • It might seem unfair that some people respond more readily to exercise (or diet changes) or seem not to struggle with their weight. In reality, fairness has nothing to do with it.

Just like nail-biting, negative self-talk is a bad habit. Here’s my 3-step process to help break this destructive, unempowering habit.

Here's a 3-step method to stop negative self-talk. Stay true to your healthy living plan.Click To Tweet

3-Step HOP to Stopping Negative Self-Talk

  1. H: Hear your words in your head. This might be the hardest part because we are habitual in our thoughts and reactions. You may already be on a downward spiral once you hear your negative self-talk, so start from whatever point that you first recognize negativity. As you work on this, you will be able to catch yourself earlier in the process.
  2. O: Observe the situation objectively, as if you were observing a friend. Most likely, you’ll see that the words are too harsh for the situation. Draw on your compassion and think about what you would say to your friend.
  3. P: Plan how to proceed. This might include ways to direct your attention to different things, ways you can navigate a similar situation in a better way next time, or ways to reaffirm your commitment to your lifestyle reset.

What are some ways that you’ve shaken free of the autopilot inside your head?

Jill Weisenberger

I'm Jill, and I believe simple changes in your mindset and health habits can bring life-changing rewards. And I don't believe in willpower. It's waaaay overrated. As a food-loving registered dietitian nutritionist, certified diabetes care and education specialist and certified health and wellness coach, I've helped thousands of people solve their food and nutrition problems. If you're looking for a better way to master this whole healthy eating/healthy living thing or if you're trying to prevent or manage diabetes or heart problems, you'll find plenty of resources right here.

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1 Comment

  1. Alison on May 4, 2019 at 3:40 am

    Aw, this was a really nice post.

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Welcome to my Blog

Hi there! I'm Jill, a nutrition & diabetes expert and the author of 4 books.

Jill Weisenberger

I believe simple changes in health habits can bring you life-changing rewards.

And I believe willpower is way overrated.

Right here is where you can discover the mindset and habits to stick with healthy lifestyle choices most of the time - and drop the guilt when you don't.

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