Preventing Self-Sabotage; Can Keeping a Journal be the Answer?

You’re doing great; checking your blood sugar, watching your carbs, exercising, and the hard work is really starting to pay off.  You look good, feel great, and your blood sugar numbers are really starting to come down. Then, out of nowhere old behaviors start to creep back. You find yourself picking at your kid’s half-eaten mac and cheese, grabbing chips rather than packing healthy snacks, and suddenly saying, “I’m too busy to check my blood sugar.” 

These behaviors are a form of self-sabotage, meaning they are behaviors that create problems and interfere with goals. The question is, why, after all this hard work would you sabotage your efforts?

The reasons vary from person to person. For some, it’s emotional. Maybe you are having feelings of burnout and turning to food to self-soothe. Possibly, it's the pressure from having to lose weight and meet exercise goals. Whether it’s burnout, pressure, or other reasons, developing strategies to end self-sabotage is essential for sustainable, long-term success.

Keeping a journal has proven time and time again to be one of the most effective tools for diabetes self-management, playing a critical role in preventing self-sabotage.

A journal collects information, so you can identify why, when, and where self–sabotage may be occurring.

In your journal, include: 

  • blood sugar numbers
  • food intake
  • anything during the day that may impact checking your blood sugar, eating, and/or physical activity. For instance, were you running late causing you to forgo checking your blood sugar and skip breakfast? Did you forget to pack lunch, so visited the drive thru instead? 

Another component to self-sabotage is emotional and stress eating. Did someone say something that led you to sabotage your efforts? Are you under more pressure or stress than usual? It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what’s led you to sabotage your efforts, but addressing the emotional piece is critical. As you write in your journal you’ll be able to make the connection between the emotion and the sabotage. This birds-eye view paints a picture, helping you identify the root of the problem, so you can create an effective solution.   

Consider this scenario. Things are going great, but suddenly old behaviors start creeping back. It’s so frustrating, but luckily, this time, you’ve been diligent about keeping a journal. You notice, when reviewing your journal, that there have been changes in your lifestyle, triggering old behaviors. 

  1. Work has been extra busy requiring you to stay well past dinner time. You notice that, although you are bringing your meals and snacks to work, you barely have time to eat.
  2. This crazy schedule has gotten you out of your routine of checking your blood sugar two hours after breakfast and lunch.  Your journal shows that you have only checked your fasting blood sugar nine out of the past fourteen days.  
  3. You come home from work stressed and starved, grazing your way through the kitchen. You realize that on most nights you have eaten more food between 6 – 9 pm than you have eaten all day.

Although you may not be able to change your long work hours, you can put strategies in place to address your busier than normal lifestyle.

For example:

  1. Have foods that are convenient and ready to eat.  Keep some at your desk and in the closest fridge.  These include: nuts, tuna, soup, cheese, hummus, veggies, fruit, etc. 
  2. Don’t wait until morning to pack lunch and snacks. Do it when you are making or cleaning up from dinner.
  3. Get support! If you don’t have time to shop, cook or prep, ask for help from a family member/roommate.
  4. Consider online grocery shopping.  They will deliver to your home or office.
  5. Set a reminder at work, so you don’t forget to eat and check your blood sugar.  Use an alarm on your phone, computer, sticky notes, watch, etc.  
  6. Use the weekend to plan your meals. Make one-pot meals such as soup, chili, or stews - a slow cooker is a must-have!  

Journaling is an effective tool to decrease your risk of self-sabotage.  It may seem like a nuisance at first, but the payoff is great. Over time, recording your food, exercise, behaviors and blood sugar will feel more like a habit and less like a chore, helping you achieve optimum diabetes control!

By: Erin Spitzberg, MS, RDN, CDE
Fit4D CDE