There are numerous self-sabotaging land-mines to avoid within any attempt to permanently change eating behavior and diet-lifestyle in order to accomplish a weight loss or physique transformation goal.
Here is the diet psychology reality no one talks about:
Why are failure rates so incredibly high when it comes to sustainable diet-strategy lifestyle changes? In other words, why do goals of permanent weight-loss result more often in failure than in success?
ANSWER: Because in the fitness and weight-loss world, seldom is proper diet-psychology included in any specific ‘diet’ advice of ‘eat this, not that.’
Let me ask you something: Are you someone who tends to sabotage your weight-loss efforts and diet compliance? Or maybe you are trying to help someone who continues to sabotage their diet compliance and weight loss efforts
So, why do so many of you sabotage your diet over and over again?
Many people think the answer to these questions is about ‘impulse control’ or they claim to have no idea why they keep blowing it when it comes to damaging diet indiscretions. I’ve heard that specific claim from various clients my whole career; something along the lines of,
“Coach, I have no idea why I did that; but once I started, I just kept eating.”
Many of you reading this, will relate to the above example, and see it in yourself I’m sure.
Looking at it more closely, it’s as if you want to claim that your minds just go blank and you end up eating junk food and canceling all your progress; and you just can’t figure out why.
And the reason such issues are seldom solved is because within the diet and weight-loss and physique transformation industries, very little light is shined on the effective diet-psychology that would solve such an issue; and the importance of developing a sound diet-psychology to engage in “right thinking leads to right action.” (Buddha)
When it comes to reaching any goal – “as a person thinketh, so shall he do.”
Thoughts precede actions.
So what could possibly be the thinking that would lead you to sabotage your weight-loss efforts? I mean, no one in their right minds would consciously sabotage long-term weight loss goals, would they?
Well, you may be surprised by the answer – because that answer is yes!
Furthermore, you can’t change something you don’t understand! So, here are two elements of mindset and diet-psychology that you need to embrace and understand: “self-regulation” and “self-licencing.”
Know them – understand them – and this will go a long way to helping you STOP engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors and diet indiscretions.
In this article I am going to focus most on the mind-trick of “self-licensing” – what it is and what you can do about it.
Diet and Self-Licencing
The self-licensing effect is defined this way: “Self-licencing is when people making progress toward a goal, rationalize making conscious decisions that undermine that goal?” And of course all of this takes place in their own heads; although it can often be stated aloud as well.
Notice that the above definition of self-licencing clearly states that it is a ‘conscious decision’ being made to sabotage yourself and your long-term goal.
Here is a common example: “I’ve been really good on my diet all week, just going out for one dinner won’t hurt me, I deserve it.”
There are key elements to self-licencing that are important to recognize. And the main words that come to mind are “justifying” and “rationalizing.”
Justifying is defined this way: ‘to give somebody an acceptable reason for taking a particular action’ – or – to make something seem reasonable as in serving as an acceptable excuse for something.’
Hmmm – is this starting to paint a picture for you yet?
Justifying is a major component of self-licencing self-sabotage. Justifying is well-known in Cognitive Behavior Therapy circles, and is a major focus to overcome self-damaging thoughts and behaviors.
In the above example, the “I deserve” self-licensing mental masturbation just caters to what we call ‘Infantile Ego.’ The problem is that when you “justify” indulgences that conflict with long-term goals, you also in that moment of decision mentally block out the sabotage of those goals – and if this becomes habit – no long-term goal is likely to be achieved.
It can start in very harmless ways, like just a bite of this or a piece of that. Then it can progress to an unscheduled meal off or day off diet compliance simply because you talk yourself into it. And then over time this can lead to the all too common and recognizable “screw it’ effect, where you just throw in the towel till next time you ‘think’ you want to get serious about body transformation again.
But if self-licencing isn’t dealt with effectively and challenged or eradicated mentally in your diet-psychology approach to physique transformation; then it is likely to keep repeating itself somewhere in the cycle of your approach to weight loss. And when it does, you sabotage your goal all over again.
So to reiterate: Self-licensing is when you actually reason in your mind justifications for self-sabotaging behaviors – in other words, you actually pre-meditate and make a conscious decision to choose self-sabotaging behavior, once again proving my point that “quality of mindset determines quality of behavior” and that so often these self-sabotaging events and behaviors are not just unconscious impulses you have no control over.
In fact, it is quite the opposite in that you talk yourself into the self-sabotaging behaviors.
Here is just one piece of research (Witt, Huberts, Evers and De Ridder, 2012) that examined the psychology of self-licencing.
As we see in the research, self-licencing is when your mind seeks to validate excuses over commitment to process. And there is just no way around this. Previously, diet-sabotage eating behaviors were consistently thought of as ‘impulse control’ issues only. But what we see in this kind of research is something else. We see ‘conscious and deliberate’ decisions to self-sabotage and disregard long-term goals in exchange for immediate gratification.
It’s what I have often referred to as “stinkin thinkin” as well.
So the common mental conflict is one of – RATIONALIZING/JUSTIFYING vs. legitimate feedback and logic and reasoning. Logic and reasoning are based completely in self-regard and the self-regulating thoughts and behaviors this kind of sound reasoning engenders.
So, we’ve discussed “justifying” mental masturbation for bad behavior. Now let’s discuss ‘rationalizing’ which is certainly often a component part of self-licencing as well.
The RATIONALIZING element of self-licencing is to engage ‘I want’ behaviors over and instead of ‘what I need to do to accomplish my goal’ behaviors – it’s when you put a need for gratification ahead of a principled approach to process, to compliance, and to consistency. Once again, what we see here is to cater to ‘Infantile Ego WANTS’ even in the face of direct self-sabotage.
Here are just a few common examples I hear all the time:
“Well it’s just for one night. If I just cut my calories a bit tomorrow it will be fine.”
‘I’ve got no support around here. No one cares if I stick to my diet or not. And they don’t care if I lose the weight or not. And it’s not about being perfect all the time anyway.”
“I don’t want to make any waves; then everyone will ask me why I’m dieting. I’ll just go with the flow for one night.”
“I was really good at the party and didn’t eat or drink anything off my diet. Now that I’m home I’ll reward myself just a bit for being so good under all that pressure.”
And on and on it goes. I could actually write at least 10-20 full pages on self-licencing decisions I’ve heard people make over the years. And remember – “self-licencing” thoughts are indeed conscious ‘DECISIONS’ to sabotage your long-term goals!
Here is another specific example I often get from people: People will tell me they love my Cycle Diet because they love the idea of cheat days to take the edge off a structured diet – but then, at the same time they completely gloss over and dismiss the whole notion of training metabolism first and supercompensation mode and then they get angry or frustrated that they aren’t losing weight. They are selectively ‘licensing’ only the parts of the diet they like while ignoring the crucial parts of the diet-strategy that make it all work.
And then once self-licencing becomes a mental habit and replaces earnest self-regulation, then irrational thoughts and behaviors seem like logical decisions as well.
For instance, someone has a physique transformation or weight-loss goal and then they have a birthday coming up or some other celebration coming up at the same time. And somehow, a single day event like a Birthday becomes a several-days-long event of deliberate off-diet self-sabotage full-on indulgent behavior – the likes of which we wouldn’t even engage in when we were children. The self-licencing justifying rationalization unfolds along the lines of, “I only turn 40 once. I’m taking that whole week off diet and I’m just going to enjoy myself.”
So you can see how relatively innocuous the decision making licensing can be; especially if it goes unchallenged in your mind.
And that is what self-licencing behavior boils down to. It’s like having a long-term goal, and then eliminating reason and accountability whenever it suits you to do so. And this is one reason why so many weight-loss efforts result in failure.
Awareness is the first step to getting real about getting real. Now that you have an actual “label” for your self-sabotaging thoughts, decisions, and behaviors, you can catch yourself “in the act” and do something about it.
So, the first thing is to ask yourself is this, “Am I just self-licencing bad behavior here with these thoughts?” And if that answer is yes, then you ask yourself – “What are some more rational and self-directed thoughts that will keep me on track?”
This is often where Coaching can be so effective as well. You have an objective third party to bounce scenarios to. I often have clients who have an event coming up or some situation to navigate around. And in the past where they would just create self-licencing thoughts and then surrender to them – they now ask for other ways to consider the present challenge.
Another solution is to schedule and calculate “self-licensing” so that YOU control it, and it doesn’t ever sabotage you.
I will use the ‘cheat meal’ or ‘cheat day’ here for example. If you delay the gratification of the “I deserve” justifying mindset for indulgence, then you control it – and therefore you can control and prevent the damage it can do to your long-term goals.
For example, I’ve always celebrated my own Birthday on my refeed “Sunday” regardless of what day of the week my birthday actually fell on. Similarly, I have had many clients who pick days or target dates well in advance and only then will they make a decision to indulge.
For instance, clients will commit to “Hey Coach – vacation coming up in 9 weeks. I want to stay totally on diet till then, and then take that time off.”
This is a great way to control immature self-licencing. In the example above, reason and accountability are included in the decision to delay gratification and the accountability is extended to the Coach as well, so the Coach is included in that accountability in an ongoing way.
This illustrates the difference between self-regulation and self-licencing.
SELF-LICENSING – is practically universal as one of the main reasons for repeated failure at diet consistency.
At the very nucleus of self-sabotage you have to accept that -> when you have a long-term goal then you have to stop engaging “entitlement” thinking.
You have to remember that reaching a long-term goal is not something you are entitled to, it is something you must earn.
Think of self-licencing as the immature diet-sabotaging evil twin of a self-regulating mindset.
Self-licensing ends up being the opposite kind of energy of self-regulation.
If you struggle with self-licencing sabotage, then write this down: Doing little things consistently in order to achieve your goal, does not give you LICENSE to do big things that will sabotage that goal!
The misuse of self-licensing can bring on constant self-sabotage of a goal that truly requires long-term lifestyle change through consistency and compliance with the process necessary for change.
Self-licensing can encourage future self-licensing and then if you are not paying attention, it becomes a constant mode of self-sabotage – remember ‘quality of mindset determines quality of behavior.’ And if you consistently fail at weight-loss transformation goals because of diet-sabotage, then you likely need to address diet-psychology more so than looking for yet another diet to follow.
As usual, some of you will get it
Some of you will not