Overcoming Self-Sabotage: Tips for Successful Weight Loss After 50

Hey lady, ever tried to lose weight in your 50+ years? Any endeavor has its ups and downs, its successes and challenges along the way.

But why do so many of us over-50 gals sabotage our own weight loss attempts?

Think YOurself Thin!

ย Learn to lose weight and get fit by managing your thoughts!

When you were young, you didn’t really know what failure meant until someone put the idea in your head. If you tried something and it didn’t work right away, you kept trying until it did.

It wasn’t until you started thinking that your initial inability was a failure that your mind began to believe this.

You had to hear it over and over again, either in your own mind, or by someone else telling you.

But what about quitting when the going gets tough? Or doesn’t happen as quickly as you would like?

If you’re trying to lose weight and get fit and you’re over 50, past alleged “failures” may keep you from continuing, or trying again.

Maybe you should try something different this time, something that works with your values and goals instead of setting you up for failure.

It’s Not About The Food

You heard that right! Being overweight is rarely about the food you eat.

I mean, yes of course it’s the quantity of food and the amount of calories in total.

But it’s about why you are eating more than your body needs for good health.

All the good advice and pep talks in the world won’t do you any good if you have no idea why you eat the way you do and more importantly, how to stop!

Now, before I go on, I want to emphasize that eating mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, etc., is the healthiest thing for most people. We all know this.

But maybe you usually eat mindlessly.

Woman reading upsetting news and eating emotionally sabotaging her weight loss
Emotional Eating

Or you’re an emotional eater, trying to assuage your feelings with food.

Reality check: That doesn’t work.

What does work is understanding why you eat how and when you do.

Now before you go all, “that sounds too hard,” on me, listen up.

It’s too hard to keep going through life berating yourself for always messing up!

Not going out because you’re embarrassed you can’t fit into any nice clothes!

Always telling yourself what a screwup, no-good, no-willpower sap you are!

Goodness gracious, lady, stop doing that to yourself!

No, no no. That is self-criticism 101.

You have got to stop the sabotage of your own weight loss.

Miriam Webster defines self-sabotage like this: โ€œthe act of destroying or damaging something deliberately so that it does not work correctly.โ€


Easier said than done? Sure. What thing worth pursuing isn’t? So how to do this?

Celebrate SmAll Victories

I don’t care how tiny! If you resisted something for 10 seconds and actually thought about it before you grabbed the cupcake๐Ÿง, that’s a victory!

It’s something to build on and you should pat yourself on the back for it.

Even if you eventually gave in.

A victory journal that can help you stop sabotaging your weight loss

At the very least, write it in your victory journal.

Once you start seeing your small victories, you will begin to remember what you’ve accomplished.

And yes, after you finish reading this you're going to want your very own victory journal.

Did you know it takes roughly 3 times more positive things to counteract one negative?

Yep! It’s called the Losada line. That’s why when you get several compliments but ONE negative (or even neutral) comment about your new haircut, you focus on the negative one. It’s human nature.

Note that the mathematics of the Losada line have since been more or less discredited, but the concept, at least in my experience, certainly holds true.

This is why writing these small victories down is such a motivation boost. Once you begin to see your progress (even if it doesn’t show up on the scale), your brain will start to believe that you can do it.

And I’m telling you, once you have your brain on your side, nothing can stop you!

DO NOT WORRY if progress is slow! The absolute best way to lose weight, keep up with a fitness program, or eat more healthy food is to make small, incremental changes.

And sometimes those changes need to be so very tiny that they’re nearly effortless. Note I said nearly.

Effort itself gets a bad rap when talking about dieting or fitness in general. We always want to effortlessly lose weight. How many of those women’s magazines do you see at the checkout counter that claim you can lose weight while you sleep?

Latest Woman’s World Magazine blurb (from March 22, 2021) claims:

Too Hungry To Lose Weight? Breakthrough plan turns off appetite as it brings a “dead” metabolism back to life.

And then it says: “drop 10 lbs each week.”

Yeah, right. Even better? “Miracle Bracelets That Melt Fat! Lose 15 lbs in 21 Days!”

Bracelets that are supposed to spur weight loss

You’re supposed to believe that you don’t have to do anything but wear a miracle bracelet and the fat will just melt off. Sure it will. But this magazine has been on newsstands for 40 years.

People keep hoping for the effortless miracle fat cure.

Gals, it’s not gonna happen. But the other end of the spectrum, giving up, isn’t the answer, either.

Sure, you want to move from the self-flagellation and putting your life on hold until you lose 10 (or whatever) pounds, or can fit into that bikini, etc., but that’s not the same as giving up.

Having a goal of better overall health in your Phase Two life that includes wanting to look better in your clothes (or naked!) isn’t a bad thing, a vain thing, or out of vogue in 2021 2023.

You can love yourself and still want to improve.

How Do We Sabotage Our Weight Loss?

Oh, let us count the ways:

  • engaging in “all or nothing” thinking
  • blaming things on someone else
  • focusing only on a number on the scale
  • being inconsistent
  • setting yourself up for failure

And on and on it goes. But you need to acknowledge that you are the cause of what you weigh right now, all things being equal. And if your actions or inactions led to the state of where you are now, of course different actions can lead to different results.

You have to own this truth for yourself.

And let’s face it…our brains ๐Ÿง  want to prove our thoughts right. So, if you think you’ll never keep the weight off, or never “finish” a diet, you’ll surely believe this and eventually sabotage your efforts.

You are literally programming your brain to keep the weight on!

All Or Nothing Thinking–Weight Loss Sabotage #1

Woman thinking about food that will sabotage her weight loss

The first way we sabotage our weight loss is all or nothing thinking. All or nothing thinking is when you’ve just eaten two pieces of cake and you say, “oh, well, I’ve blown it for today, so might as well wait until next Monday to start again!”

It’s thinking that you’re either totally “all in” or you’ve failed completely.

It’s using “never” or “always” language, as in, “I always cheat on my diet.” Or, “I’ll never be successful.”

Clearly this is harmful and negative thinking. Also, each of those statements is JUST A THOUGHT in your head. The mere fact that you thought one of them does not make either one of them true!

In fact, I’m sure you could make a case for WHY neither one of them is true, even if up to now, you have tended to undermine your efforts frequently in these ways.

All or nothing thinking is a cognitive distortion. It demands perfection, something that no one can live up to.

It allows for no mistakes, no slip-ups, and is entirely too rigid.

Even though it’s fairly easy to determine when you have engaged in this distortion, it’s not often easy to stop it, at least in the moment it’s happening.

All or nothing thinking demands perfection, something that no one can live up to.

This is why you need to become more mindful of your thoughts and stop to examine them before pronouncing doom upon yourself or your efforts to improve some area of your life (such as diet and exercise).

If you allow yourself a bit of time, you can acknowledge that yes, while you did experience a setback from the goal you had set for the day (meal, week, whatever), it doesn’t mean that “all is lost.”

You can use the experience to write in your journal about what triggered eating the two pieces of cake, what you were thinking before, during, and after eating them.

Then see if you can come up with some alternatives for possible future similar instances.

In this way, you use the experience positively instead of berating yourself and going on some sort of pity-binge.

Blame It On Someone Else–Weight Loss Sabotage #2

You’ve told your family you want to stop eating dessert every night. You’ve asked them to not eat dessert around you.

Man with ice cream cones sabotaging his wife's weight loss

But hubby forgot and made two delicious cones. “Hey, you want a cone,” he asks?

You remind him what you had asked before, but then you relent and say, “yeah, I guess just one little cone won’t hurt.”

But before you know it, you’ve stuffed that cone with as much ice cream as it can possibly take and ended up eating way more than a normal serving.

It’s all his fault, right?? If he just hadn’t asked you, you would never have had that darn ice cream cone! Why can’t your family help you out?

Sorry, sister, that’s just not the case. If you blamed your husband, that’s just a thought in your head.

He didn’t open up your mouth and shove the ice cream in, did he? (And if he did, you have a different problem on your hands!).

You can request, ask nicely, and do whatever you think will help, but in the end, you, and you alone are responsible for what you put into your mouth.

If you keep eating even when you don’t really want to, you need to deal with mindless snacking or binge eating, or emotional eating, or whatever your specific problem is.

You cannot make others responsible for your issues. It’s not fair to them, or in the end, to you. You need to get to the bottom of your particular issue with eating too many snacks.

Setting Yourself Up For Failure–Weight Loss Sabotage #3

The old adage, “failing to plan is planning to fail” is more true than we’d like to believe. If you tend to rely on your self-control or willpower, unless you’re superhuman you’re almost bound to fail.

You have to anticipate and plan for the times when you’re tired, you lack any meal ideas except stopping for fast food, or you don’t feel like exercising.

And you and I both know those times happen frequently. Like, daily, or even several times a day. And if you don’t have a plan for temptations, fatigue, or just plain lack of enthusiasm or creativity, you’re going to suffer setbacks.

And if you have too many setbacks, you’re likely to go back to mindless eating and berating yourself once again.

The solution here is to have a plan. Maybe you need to do some food preparation, or figure out what precisely you’re going to do when the evening rolls around and you normally have dessert while watching TV.

You have to plan for the weak moments. You can’t rely on willpower or self-control. If you plan for the inevitable, even if you slip up, you can go back and refine until you get it right.

Real change can happen when you stop passively accepting your habit, whether it be eating snacks in front of the TV, or sleeping in instead of exercising.

But you need to make a conscious choice to change.

Lack Of Consistency–Weight Loss Sabotage #4

Raise your hand if, after 3 or 4 or 5 days of walking, or restricting carbs, you don’t see the scale move down 10 pounds you’ve ever decided it’s “not working.” ๐Ÿ™‹โ€โ™€๏ธ

A big problem with plans to lose weight or get fit is a lack of consistency. We start and stop so many different plans and when they don’t give instant results we give up.

Or start something new. We never give something a chance to make lasting changes.

I have a secret. Stop doing things with a fixed goal in mind. Lose 20 pounds. Get to 20% body fat. Fit into those size 6 jeans.

Instead focus on who you want to become. Because let’s face it, are you really going to “lose 20 pounds in 20 days” like the magazines scream at you?

No. Real change takes time. It takes courage, tenacity, and most of all patience coupled with the willingness to make changes when necessary.

Not only that, but it takes being honest about why you’re eating when you’re not hungry and getting to the bottom of some often difficult issues that you may not want to deal with.

But deal with them you must if you’re ever going to break free.

Focusing Only On A Number–Weight Loss Sabotage #5

Look, I know we all want to weigh 120 pounds. Or fit into size 6 jeans.

We get some number, or at least a specific something in our heads, and by golly we’re gonna reach that goal!

focusing only on pants size may sabotage your weight loss

Trouble is, if all you think about is the magic number, you’re back to setting a specific goal, instead of focusing on health behaviors.

Let’s say you get to your magical number of pounds, pants size, bikini abs, whatever. Then what? Do you go back to the old ways? Probably, at least eventually.

Do not get me wrong here. Getting to a healthy weight or looking hot in a bikini after 50 totally rocks. I mean, really rocks. So don’t ever apologize for that if it’s what you want.

But let it be the byproduct, if you will, of changing your health behaviors. Because if you slowly change your health behaviors, your weight loss and improved overall health is far more likely to stick.

And isn’t that what you want after all these years and decades of diet after diet and failure after failure? And I promise you, you can look awesome in a bikini too, if that’s what you want๐Ÿ‘™.

Will You Avoid Weight Loss Sabotage?

We’ve talked about the ways you can sabotage your weight loss…but not so much the why. That’s a discussion for a later post, but it’s one of the ways your mind tries to keep you safe.

This is where work on your thoughts and mindset can be so very helpful. If you don’t get why you would try to sabotage your own weight loss, think about this: if you can convince yourself that it’s never your fault, then you don’t have to take responsibility for your lack of results.

If you really lost the weight and became super fit, maybe you would have to actually DO those things you’ve been saying you would do “when I get to a size 6.” Or whatever goal you have always had at the back of your mind.

And that can be scary stuff!

But now you know five of the big ways you can set yourself up for failure. And now that you know them, you can actively work to avoid–or at least nip in the bud–these common culprits.

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  1. Keeping a victory journal is great advice. Reminding yourself of all the small wins on days when you don’t feel as motivated is a great way to spark motivation ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. This is so helpful! As someone who has struggled with weight her whole life, I found this to be very similar to many of the realizations I have had over my weight loss journey. Thanks for the great tips, and I am going to make a point to celebrate more!