The Sabotage Syndrome – why is it so easy to give in to harmful choices?

Sabotage Syndrome – something every dieter can come up against.

The Sabotage Syndrome – why is it so easy to give in to harmful choices?

When we begin to make changes, they are not always supported by the people around us and sometimes can cause them to react instead.

For example, a friend at work changed her diet after a health scare. She dropped ALL gluten, dairy and sugar from her diet and 6.6kg disappeared in a short period of time. She described how great she felt in her body to not feel overloaded, to feel instead clean and clear. All great, but then she said, “You have to watch people around you – they tend to sabotage.”

Sabotage is a documented syndrome[i] many of us have experienced first hand.

The Sabotage Syndrome is a fancy name for something human beings can do to each other when someone begins to make diet and lifestyle choices for themselves that lead to healthy changes in their physical, mental and emotional well-being – we either feel inspired and delighted by what we observe or, ungraciously, we sabotage to bring someone back down to our own level … in effect saying, "Don’t leave me/us behind – stay here, it’s okay isn’t it? Your changing makes me uncomfortable about my own choices and I want you to stop so I can feel comfortable."

My friend found people offering her food they knew she was avoiding, presenting it with comments like:

  • “Just one bite won’t hurt”
  • “Come on, it’s Friday”
  • “You don’t have to be THAT strict”
  • “You’ve come so far, you can afford to have just one”
  • “You deserve a treat every now and then”

She also noticed how just being involved in corporate activities that were catered brought a different level of sabotage – gluten, dairy and sugar can be difficult to avoid in ‘normal’ day to day food situations.

What is it about us and our ‘normal’ way of being that makes it easier for us to give in to choices that are harmful, that leave us feeling not so great afterwards, than to give ourselves the best, most supportive choices for our body and overall wellbeing?

As my friend discovered it requires a loving commitment to self to continue to make choices that are different from the mainstream, that going your own way starts with being comfortable being on your own and that the proof of our choices is not in the pudding but in the body.

The Sabotage Syndrome can also come from within ourselves. This occurs because sometimes we are not ready to leave the comfort of our lifestyle, even when we have health scares or wake up calls that invite us to make changes. In this case we will buy foods we know are not supportive, and once we buy inevitably we will try, or resign to ‘giving up’ on our loving commitment, saying we will get back to that ‘later’.

It takes time to navigate the Sabotage Syndrome and discover, with gentle practice, that the loving commitment to self to make supportive choices can build and become second nature, and indeed leave us free to be. We can learn to build a connection with ourselves that supports this process.

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  • By Adrienne Ryan

    I’ve always been interested in understanding the underlying cause and effect behind what we experience in life and for this the heart is the greatest teacher any student could have.