GOAL SERIES #03 – Self-Sabotage on Keto and Banting

Goal Series #03: Why We Self-Sabotage on Banting and Keto

I’m training to break my previous half marathon personal best by 24 minutes. I’ve given myself a year and I’m starting from a low base. You can read more about that here

I need to break 80kg (just like all of our clients) to get my sleek running body and to do that I have quit sugar. This is how I’m doing it. 

I’ve also started fasting regularly, which I will discuss in a future post, but for now, I want to talk about how I have sabotaged myself to get to this point. 

In 2004 I ran a 2h03sec Two Oceans half marathon. The following year, I trained much harder for the same race, but the night before, I went out on an all night bender. I came home from my night out, changed into my running gear, and went off to run the Two Oceans half again. 

My time? 2h03secs. I trained twice as hard and a whole year later I got the exact same time. 

If I had gone to bed at a reasonable hour, I would have smashed my previous time. In fact, if I had gone home at midnight I probably would have too. There was also no reason to go out that night. I think I went with two other mates. There wasn’t some big bash I couldn’t miss or an anniversary I was obliged to show up for. 

It was like I was on the edge of an improvement in life, and I deliberately destroyed it for no reason. 

That is textbook self-sabotage. The same thing happens to me (and everyone) in my health, career, relationships, wealth and many other areas of my life. And, it can sneak up on me in many different ways. 

Does that resonate with you? Have you done that? 

But how can you tell if you are sabotaging yourself? Let’s take a look. 

Symptoms of Self-Sabotage

Negativity – are you Negative Nancy? That negative voice is going to let you know about everything that could go wrong, and everything that will suck about achieving something you want.

Procrastination – Your stationery drawer, your spice rack and your spam inbox are red flags. If you find yourself sorting any of those out, you are procrastinating. 

Disorganisation – being unorganised is a fantastic way to avoid responsibility for anything you know you should do. It is a sabotage super-tool because most people think you genuinely can’t get yourself together. But if you can get dressed, brush your hair and teeth and make breakfast, you can organise yourself. And if you can organise anything, you can organise anything.  

Overindulgence – we know this one all too well. Too much of a good thing. Overeating, binge watching, drinking heavily, inhaling chocolates or sweets and any other kind of escape. 

Initiating conflicts – do you ever finish a fight and wonder what that was all about? Addressing issues is important, but we all know what will irritate people, and then do those things and wonder why everyone got so upset. 

All over the place – if you are erratically hopping from plan, idea or strategy to the next it is probably because you are avoiding the elephant in the room. And not dealing with the elephant in the room is going to hurt you in the long run (this is every entrepreneur’s biggest one)

‘Comparitinitis’ – my amazing client, Steph, told me about ‘Comparitinitis’. The disease of comparing everything about yourself to others. That is a form of negativity, because you do end up wallowing in self-pity. But it deserves special mention because comparing yourself to others gets you nowhere. That is pure sabotage. 

Questioning your purpose – when all else fails and you know you have to get to work, a crisis of self is a totally justifiable distraction that can take as much time as needed to sabotage your odds of succeeding at the task at hand. ‘I didn’t ace that test because I was working on my vision board’. Now, it is important to have a vision board, but there is a formula for how much time you should spend on which stages of dreaming, planning and execution. And, if your vision board sabotaged your test or your deadline, that was sabotage. 

It’s all fine and well to look at the symptoms, but if you are a keen follower of what we do, you will know that treating the symptoms isn’t always the best cure. Discovering the cause and crushing that will make the shift. 

So let’s have a look at those. 

Causes of Self-Sabotage

Control – In some weird way, it gives us more comfort controlling our failure than it does trying hard and having failure hit us by surprise. It is much scarier to ride fast down a hill and risk crashing than it is to walk, or just stay off the bike altogether. And if you find yourself going too fast, it sometimes feels easier to get off the bike than it does to just go slow and steady. 

Perceived fraudulence / Imposter syndrome – Jerry Seinfeld, the world’s most successful comedian (at $900mil net worth) says that even in his 60s, when he is walking onto stage, there is a moment where he says to himself, ‘What on earth do you think you are doing here?’. In fact, Harvard Business Review conducted a study on Fortune 500 CEOs and found that the No.1 fear among them was being found out for their incompetence. Ironically, the more ‘important’ or ‘impressive’ you become, the higher the threat is of being called out as a fake. On the flip side, your haters are an indication that you matter. 

Familiarity and fear of the unknown – weirdly, we are more likely to choose what we are used to than what we want. If we are used to being last, we will put ourselves in situations where we are last because it is oddly reassuring. 

Low self-worth – When your actions are not aligned with your beliefs you find yourself in cognitive dissonance. This is basically an inconsistency in your thought patterns. One thought is going ‘Yay, I’m going to be thin’ but the belief (a more solidly embedded thought) says ‘well that can’t be, because I don’t deserve it, I’m worthless, I’ll always be fat etc.’ Your brain likes consistency, so it triggers behaviours to remove any inconsistencies. In other words, as long as you believe you are worthless, or that you will always be fat, your brain will keep trying to pull in behaviours consistent with that. 


Diffusing the Symptoms

The first part of the solution is to get over the symptoms. We can’t really treat them, but we can get past them. 

Just like you can’t simply tell an alcoholic to drink less, it is pointless to tell someone who keeps sabotaging themselves to just stop self-sabotaging. 

First thing you need to do is exercise compassion. We’ll touch on the greater compassion picture in another blog post, but the short of it is that if you come down hard on yourself, science shows that it does not have the desired effect of making you stand up and trying again. In fact, what the science suggests is that we interpret our internal narrative much the same way we interpret things that other people say to us. 

My internal tough talk goes like this, ‘You really F#$%ed that up you F#$%ing idiot. When the F#$% are you going to stop being such a F#$% up and get your F#$%ing S#@t together’ 

If someone else said that to me, I would want to crawl into a hole and never come out. And, when I do give myself the tough talk, that’s often how I feel. 

The correct way to give yourself tough talk is to talk to yourself as though you were a toddler learning to walk. 

Easy on the ‘you’re a dumb spastic’ and heavier on the reassuring ‘come on baby, you got this. You can do it!’. 

I’ve had clients who have argued that sometimes they felt they deserved a proper bollocking. But you have to come back to the baby analogy every time. ‘Come on baby, you’ve got this.’ 

The difference between a champion who comes back after nearly losing and a pro who falls behind and falls out of the match is the way they deal with upset. 

The pro who gives himself tough talk will hold onto their anger and battle to get back in the game. The pro who fluffs a shot and accepts the mistake as a mistake, not a symbol of their stupidity or the beginning of their demise, is the one who will win, because they rinse themselves of the shame. 

Hint – Compare the way Roger Federer and Andy Murray talk to themselves when they miss points. 

Tackling the Causes

Three out of the four are easy enough. The big one is self worth. 


The best way to deal with the control element when you feel like you might lose control, is to slow things down. Our golden rule of IRONMAN70.3 was, ‘If you feel good, slow down’. We only made it a rule after we felt so good at the halfway mark that we decided to pick up the pace. We paid for it too many times before realising the errors of our ways.  

I’ve seen countless people get comfortable with a certain level of keto, or fasting, or whatever habit only to move themselves into a new level of discomfort before it has really stuck. 

Choose a handful of keto or Banting habits or things (two or three) to work on at a time and stick to just those for at least 12 weeks. At week four you will get bored, but from weeks six to eight you will get cocky and want to test them or add more. Don’t. 

Stay in control of going slow, rather than controlling your exit from the race. 

Remember: If you’re feeling good, slow down. 

Imposter Syndrome

Noticing it is the first step. Holding onto the thought that everyone gets it (even Jerry Seinfeld) helps too. 

Spend time getting clear on the difference between being humble and being afraid. Accepting a compliment is not arrogant. Say thank you. But, not trying is not humble, that is fearful. 

Bank your wins in a journal. Even bank your complements too. Track and measure your success too (not in an obsessive way please). You want to gather evidence that suggests you might actually belong. 

Fear of the Unknown

For a new identity to be born, an old identity will need to die, or at least shed it’s skin. Give some thought to the new parts of your identity you will need to make way for in the new you. If you’re going to stay thin forever, what kind of person will you be, forever? What kind of person can’t you be if you want to be thin and healthy forever? 

Write those down. 

Then, when you get scared of those bits of you dying, think about like a cat you need to put down because it has cancer. Of course it’s sad, but it is more painful to keep it alive than to ‘set it free’.

And then, focus on the next step. If you open your mind up to too great a timeline, you can easily freak yourself out. And, where you focus goes, your energy goes.

Keep bringing your mind back to what you have to do right now. Turn on the light, light the stove, put the olive oil in the pan, wash the spinach etc. The smaller the steps, the better. 

Low Self-Worth

Victoria Webster, our new Clinical Psychologist has been dropping gold left right and center. A few weeks back she gave a talk on self-worth and self-esteem and this really stood out for me. 

Self worth is something you can improve by living in alignment with your values. 

What that also means is that low self-worth is perpetuated by living out of alignment with your values. Which means that if you have low self-worth, you do actually have virtuous values, but your actions are unaligned. 

You can start increasing your self-worth by going for the low hanging fruit. If diet is too hard for you, think about the relationships that you value, or the kind of work you value, and just take one small action in line with that. 

Make a call to someone. Send an email about a side hustle you have been thinking about. Or just eat one healthy meal. 

Don’t push yourself any harder than you feel comfortable pushing until you are ready.