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Ted Talk 133: Self-Sabotage: Get Out Of Your Own Way

Every time we start making progress on our weight loss journey or when we commit to starting making better choices, self-sabotage shows up. 

Why do we do that to ourselves, over and over again?  

It feels like the script of our lives is being written by our worst enemy; we see nothing but our mistakes, punish ourselves harshly every time we fail, and get more desperate as we watch our expectations get further.  

In this Ted Talk episode, Ted reveals why self-sabotage shows up the second we start making progress toward our goals. He uses the powerful story of Mia, a listener who decided to tell her own story of self-sabotage, as a kickstart to explain why we keep on putting stones on our own path.  

Ted also discloses why it’s so easy to feel stuck, what are the numbing techniques we use on ourselves, and the influence of victim mentality on our self-sabotaging tendencies.   


You’ll learn:

  • What Ted wants to do in the future is to inspire and help people 
  • The key ideas from a podcast listener 
  • How do you know you are making progress in any area of your life? 
  • How gratitude can help you 
  • The mindset shift that will get you unstuck
  • Why do we get stuck easier when we get older? 
  • How living in Southeast Asia changed Ted’s perspective on his life 
  • What is the numbing technique and why do we use it? 
  • What are the things that sabotage us and how to stop the cycle? 
  • Being a victim vs remaining a victim 
  • Hot cognition vs cold cognition 
  • How to recognize the automatic patterns that we have in response to negative events 
  • And much more… 


Related Episodes:  

318: How To Get Unstuck (So You Can Finally Achieve The Health And Life You Deserve)

482: Why The “Pause-Button Mentality” Is Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Efforts with Ted Ryce

374: How to Stop Sabotaging Yourself and Your Health & Fitness Goals with Ted Ryce


Podcast Transcription: Self-Sabotage: Get Out Of Your Own Way 

Ted Ryce: Do you feel like every time you start to make progress with your weight, with your health, with making better choices, you end up self-sabotaging. If that’s your story, well, you’re not the only one. It’s one of the most common things I hear from clients, even in my program—they want to give up.

But today, I don’t have a story from a client, I have a story from a listener that I want to share with you, a powerful story. And I asked her, “may I share this? It’s so powerful, I know it’s going to make a difference for someone out there listening,” perhaps you, and she agreed. So, Mia, thank you so much, and let’s dive right into it.

First of all, welcome back to the show. If you’re just tuning in for the first time, I’m your host, Ted Ryce, coach to entrepreneurs, executives, and other high performers. And I want to talk about this today, this self-sabotage. So, this comes to us from Mia. She wrote to me on Facebook and said, “I wanted to drop you a line to say thank you so much for your podcast.

I have used it to support my mental and now physical transformation over the last 8 months. I was about 15 kilograms over weight—it’s about 30 pounds—and in really bad condition. I now resistance train every second day, I walk every day in the Hills around my place. I’ve lost about 5 kilograms—so a little over 10 pounds in total. But feeling so much better, as I am stronger, and my mood is stable.

The game changer messages for me, were that a pound a week in weight loss is actually good and sustainable. And consistency is the key, not working super hard. Previously, I would have started eating better and got discouraged, because I didn’t lose a couple of Kgs, or kilograms a week and given up. Wow!

And I had a lot of bad things happen over my life, and was kind of stuck as a result of it. And thinking it meant I couldn’t do the good stuff I wanted to. I just thought it was easier for other people to be fit, healthy, live legendary, as they were not carrying around the same burden. Then I heard your story, and you really resonated with me because you actually get that life can be super tough. Sometimes through no fault of your own.

And you had so much stuff happen, it put things into perspective for me. I love the resilience you teach through sharing your experiences, and it made me realize I was actually being a victim of my bad circumstances, in spite of dealing with it pretty well. I’ve become much more results focused in all areas of my life. And I have looked at why I was using numbing techniques.

I thought I was successful, as I have a good job, career, and support my family financially. But actually, a lot of other areas of my life were out of balance. That is an ongoing challenge to keep things heading in a good direction and in balance, and you provided some great tools on that recently.

My kids have also suffered a lot of trauma, so your talks have helped me with some aspects of their support and recovery. I felt it was all a bit hopeless at some point, raising kids with so much trauma. So, seeing the way you have managed your life has given me reassurance, they can get through it with the right tools.

I often listened to your podcast in earshot, so they pick up on some of your ideas, especially my oldest son who has PTSD. So, I really want to just thank you so much for sharing your story, and to let you and the team know that your podcast for me has been life-changing. I hope the business transformation is going well, and you’re enjoying a much-deserved break.”

Wow! That got me. So, this was sent to me a while ago by Mia, and Mia, if you’re listening right now, thank you so much. Because I love my business coaching executive entrepreneur, coach for entrepreneurs and executives, I love doing what I do. But I feel like the future of what I’m going to do is going to be more involved with public speaking and reaching more people, is what I feel like I really have to do, and it’s something I’m working on right now.

So, thank you so much, because sometimes—I don’t know if you know this, but sometimes I feel like, I do these podcasts, and certainly people sign up to my coaching as a result, and that’s good. But is it really helping people? Is it making a difference? Not for the people who end up working with me.

But for people who come to this podcast, and maybe they’re not an entrepreneur, or an executive, or identify as a high-performer. But do they take something away from this? And actually, put in into play into their life, put it in action. So, it really means the world to me when you share a story with me. It lets me know that it’s not just a business, it’s actually making a difference.

So, there’s a few things that I think are key here. And the first thing that I think sabotages so many of us, and this includes myself, not so much with my health, but in other areas of my life, our expectations. She talks about the game changer for me was that learning a pound a week in weight loss is actually good and sustainable.

It’s so crazy, why would people not think that? Why would  people think that losing a pound was bad progress? We’ve got to get it through our heads that progress is progress. There are things to speed up progress, there’re things that slow down progress, but progress is progress, be grateful for it. And I’m not just saying this to you, like I’m always grateful for everything, for all my progress. I’m not, but we all should be a bit more mindful, like, ha, am I getting results? Yes.

I went through a period recently, personally, where my business is doing better than it’s ever done, but I didn’t feel grateful for it, because of the progress, the unrealistic expectations. Why do we do this to ourselves? I think I know the answer, emotionally we get caught up in the story of the moment, and we lose perspective about what’s happened, about how far we’ve come since we’ve started.

And that’s the easy thing to do, meaning, it comes naturally to you. We’ve got to apply conscious effort to be grateful, at least I do, and I feel like most people do. At least most people who I talk to. And I talked to some very successful people, it takes effort to train yourself to look at the bigger picture and how far you’ve come.

Just a quick tangent, because you know I love those. One thing I’m really grateful for on my iPhone is that it keeps showing me pictures of the past. And I get so into the moment sometimes, and then all of a sudden, I catch something, I’m like, I see a picture. And so much has happened since the whole Coronavirus craziness started, right? I feel like some of my life before the Coronavirus, it’s a bit hazy.

But I had this incredible life, these amazing experiences in Southeast Asia, and my iPhone reminds me, and it really helps, like, “Oh my gosh, that’s right, I did this, I went to that place, this cool place, so many people will never get a chance to go to that place, and I did.’ Be grateful for it, remember, it’s tough. But we all need to take a little bit of time if we suffer from this, and to put our expectations in context.

Another thing I would say about that is, who setting your expectations exactly? Is it something you saw on social media? Is that your friend who went on an extreme diet, 500 calories a day? A medical weight loss program? Where are those standards being set? Make sure you’re getting your standards set, your expectations managed. It’s one of the most important things I feel like I do with my client. It’s like, here’s what results look like, because some people, they were like, “Oh, I’ve only lost 12 pounds in a month, I’m a loser.” No pun intended.

It’s like, what are you talking about? That’s awesome, that’s great progress, like what do you think? What standard do you have here? What are your expectations? And where did you come up with those expectations? It’s crazy what we do and, we’re all a little crazy.

The second thing is, consistency is the key, not working super hard. I got stuck in this when I was older—older? Younger. Maybe I’m stuck in it now, I don’t know, was that a Freudian slip? I’ve got no idea. I got stuck in this when I was younger in the gym, right? I got to really train hard. Now. I’m like, ah, what I teach my clients and what I do myself. And you don’ t have to train as hard as you think, but you’ve got to be more consistent than you think.

I’m going to say that again. You don’t have to train as hard as you think, or diet as hard as you think, but you need to be more consistent than what you think is okay. That’s a huge mindset shift. We’ve got to get away from, “Oh, I’m going to do this work out, it’s going to be great, I’m going to make up for all that lost time.”

No, you’re not, you’re not going to do Jack fucking shit with that crazy workout, except be sore for the next week, and have to skip more workouts. Doesn’t do anything for you, it’s about consistency. I want to even share a secret with you. When I get someone who’s really deconditioned, there are a few months, or it may be even a year behind on their workouts, you know what I have them do? I have them do as many short workouts as I can in a week.

So, I’ll have people do one set, and I’ll have them do it every day. You’re coming back from some time off, do that. Don’t do the idiot thing. I’ve been guilty of this too, so I’m not calling you an idiot, but it’s this mentality, this approach that’s idiocy, it’s crush yourself with the workout, because you’re so motivated to get back in shape, except you just end up sabotaging yourself because you’re too sore to hit any more than that one workout. Start with one set, and do it every day, one set of each muscle group, do it every day. It’ll take it 10 minutes and you’ll see fast progress, and the very next week you can bump it up.

So, another thing I want to talk about here is, I’ve had a lot of bad—what Mia says—I’ve had a lot of bad things happening in my life. I was kind of stuck as a result, and thinking of men, I couldn’t do the good stuff I wanted. Does that hit home for you? That hits home for me, because I’ve been there.

When I was 19, and I know this might sound silly to you, but I thought my life was over, it was a big fucking deal when my brother was kidnapped and murdered. They found pieces of him in flowerpots, three different flowerpots, believe me, that changed the way I looked at the world, and I thought things were over for me.

The benefit I think that we have when we’re young is that we’ve got so much, I mean, when you’re 19, you’ve got so many more years out of you. I didn’t have someone pep talking to me, I didn’t listen to a podcast, I didn’t get into personal development until a bit later. I think by sheer like, “man, I’ve got a lot of years left here, I better learn how to pull myself together.”

But when you get older, I think it’s a bit more challenging. To be honest, I think about my brother, but I don’t think about that much, I don’t think about him as much as I do my dad who passed away recently, or my sister who committed suicide in 2012. That was 10 years ago. My brother, it was 20 years ago.

So, what I’m saying is this: it’s easy to get stuck. And I really do believe as we get older, it’s harder to feel good for many of us. What do I mean by that? Well, you have more chronic pain in your body, or more likelihood of having chronic pain in your body. The longer you’re alive, more people, bad things are going to happen to them, I mean, how many bad things have happened? How many negative things have happened to some of the people that you care about in your life? How many friends have died?

I don’t want to get all negative here, what I’m saying though, is that we’ve got to find a way to pull it together and create a better life, no matter what happens, because that’s all we have. There is no right time or wrong time, there’s only lifetime. And one thing that I’ve seen, and this happened to my dad, is he ended up in his last days looking back on his life and realizing how much of it he wasted being stuck on things that he couldn’t change.

So, you can’t change the past, and it’s normal to feel a bit fucked up by things that have happened to you, a bit sad, a bit anxious, a bit depressed. That said, we have the rest of our lives ahead of us. Don’t be that person at the end, you finally realize, “Ooh, I could have done this differently, I didn’t have to just sock and piss and moan, I could have gotten my shit together and went in and live life how it’s meant to be lived.”

I almost think that has something to do with expectations too in the West, because I’ll tell you something, someone asked me this—actually, many people have asked me this, why do you keep traveling? What are you doing with this traveling thing? Why do you keep bouncing around?

Well, the story has changed now, but when I was in Southeast Asia especially, it changed the way I looked at the world, it changed the way I looked at myself as a victim, especially when I went to Cambodia and saw people still struggling from the genocide that happened there in 1979, I think that was the year it started. I saw terrible things.

But here we are…Let me say this one more thing. It led to also some realizations that man, life has not been good to human beings for a long time. There’s something that my dad said, and this is actually in one of the Lord of the Rings books too. Oh, I forget the name of the character, but a saying that we have is, no parent should ever bury their child. Hard to disagree with that, but here’s the reality. If you look at the infant mortality rate, and sorry for this, but I forget exactly what infant mortality is, I believe it’s when children die before the age of five, it was high, there are a lot of dead kids and grieving parents.

And that rate, that infant mortality rate is lower than it’s ever been in the United States, and in the entire world, it’s still high in some places. So, kids dying and parents grieving from it, that’s something that used to happen all the time. But we have this expectation, no parent should ever have to bury their child. It’s like well, a lot of… I even forget what the infant mortality rate is, you can Google it, it’s not important.

The point is this, that expectation, that story doesn’t match reality. That’s like saying life should never be hard, right? And I couldn’t think of anything more stressful than losing a child. I watched my dad lose two. My point here is that be careful about the stories you tell yourself to keep you stuck, I just want to be clear, I’m not saying, “Oh, well, my son died, so what? A lot of people’s sons die.”

That’s not what I’m saying here. If you happen to be part of the unlucky club, just know, you’re not alone, and it’s not that uncommon. And the more you get outside the United States or probably countries like Canada, UK, Australia, et cetera, or Western Europe, it’s more common in South Asia, in Southeast Asia.

Oh man, I don’t want to get into the dark things that happen out there, but it’s just a different place, it’s a different place. And it ends up changing your expectations, and what you think is—it hits you hard, because then you realize, many of us have this Disney like view. And I love Disney, or at least the movies, I’m not talking about the corporation, I love the Disney World, and I love the Disney movies, grew up on them. Especially the ones from the 70s and80s. But it’s not real, right? It’s not real.

And we have this very disconnected view of what has happened to people in the world, even though we know history, and we watch things on TV, but then when something happens to us, we act like, “Oh, I’m super unlucky, this doesn’t happen to anyone else.” So, I’m going to get off the pulpit now here, but the point is this. Bad things happen, hopefully, they don’t happen to you.

But no matter what happens to you, you’ve got to find a way to push forward, no matter what, that’s all there is. Especially if you’re a parent, especially if you’re a parent, your sadness, your depression, your inability to pull your act together will drag your children down. And I know as a parent, you don’t want to do. And no, I’m not a pparent, but guess what? That’s what happened to me, because that’s what my parents did to me, and that’s what I’m struggling with now. Your children’s shoulders aren’t built to bear the burden of your weakness. Not saying you need to change overnight, but be as strong as you can, and strive to be stronger.

Then she talks about the numbing technique. Why I was numbing, so important here. I had a conversation with a client just last night, and he’s a very successful client, sold his business recently. You know what that means? Millions of dollars in cash in the bank. And he was struggling. Now, he’s getting results, he’s done well, but he’s had these periods of, he’s been with me a few months now, he’s had—the first month was he lost like 10 pounds. Second month, stayed at the same weight for the entire month. And finally, in the third month, we’re making progress again.

And what he was trying to ask me, he was saying, “You know, I just can’t figure out what I did the previous year, where I got in such great shape and lost all that weight. I can’t figure out what it was.” And I said, “From what you’ve told me, Paul, it has nothing to do with the strategies. The strategy is, you just choose the foods that are filling, that fill you up, and that keep you in a calorie deficit. And then you hit the gym, and try to lift, and try to do more reps and more weight, that is really body transformation in a nutshell right there.”

What makes it so difficult is when we’re not feeling good about our lives, when we have an emptiness inside. And during the call last night, he said, you know what? Because I always ask at the end of the call, what was the big takeaway for you today? And what he said was, I was asking the wrong question, I was asking how do I watch TV and not snack? When I should have been asking myself, what do I need to do to feel so good that I don’t have the desire to snack, even if I end up watching TV?

Does that resonate with you? Do you get that? Because  e’re in a poor emotional state, and we’re like, “Oh gosh, it’s been such a stressful day. Let me watch some TV and snack.” Or “it’s been such a stressful day, let’s go hang out and eat steak, and drink some Opus One.” Well, the problem is snacking or alcohol, it does shift the way you feel, so, you want to change your emotional state, it does shift the way you feel, but it doesn’t last.

You, you feel good when you eat the food, but then the next day, it just comes back, you’re in the same position again, it doesn’t fill the emptiness, or it doesn’t fill it for long.

And alcohol, it makes it even worse, you have a great time when you’re drinking, at least some of us do. But the next day, you’ve got an even bigger case of the fuck-its, don’t you? Like, “Ah man, just fuck it, let me just eat something delicious, I’m not going to stay on my diet.”

And it’s like, well, why are you drinking and eating so much? What is behind that? I had another conversation with a friend recently, and he said, “Well, I’m just being lazy.” I said, “Don’t say you’re being lazy, that’s a cop-out.” He’s like, “What are you talking about? I’m trying to take responsibility here, I’m calling myself lazy, I’m calling myself out on my behavior.” And I said, “Yeah, and it’s a cop-out, you’re not lazy,” because my friend runs a business, and he’s got two children, he takes care of business, it’s not lazy, it’s not laziness.

Or if you wanted to say the laziness, the laziness is calling yourself lazy, instead of doing the work to figure out what’s really driving your choices. What are you missing? What void are you trying to fill when you shove food in your face and drink down a couple of IPA’s or glasses of red wine, or scotches, what are you trying to fill? So, those are the things, right? Those are the things that sabotage us, and it’s easy to fall into that.

And one more thing, and then I want to wrap things up today, is one more thing, she said, “I heard your story and you really resonated with me, because you actually get that life can be super tough, sometimes through no fault of your own.” Here’s the thing with this. This is such an important point, some people, they make up things, right? About how they were victimized. Your words were violence, you didn’t call me by my pronouns. That was violence.

We’re in this world today where the words there are, the meanings, the blurred lines, right? But some of us, were really, we have things that we’ve been through. And I would even say that those people who are so triggered by all those things, the craziness—you know what I’m talking about, the social justice, or the social injustice craziness. Those people been through things, and have been victims in other areas of their life, and now they’re just repeating that victimization through looking at other ways where they’re perceive to be victimized.

But many of u s, we’ve been through things, we have been victimized. So, being a victim wasn’t your choice, but remaining a victim of what happened is, it’s like you’re a victim twice. You’re a victim of the thing that happened, the event that you didn’t want to happen, and then you’re a victim of the story that keeps you stuck. But this time you’re victimizing yourself.

It’s so normal, we’re such a normal response to do this. I mean, I used to do it, I was the biggest victim, and I had good reason. I mean, I was abused by my mentally old mother, I was abused by step mothers, emotionally abused, and sometimes physically abused by my alcoholic stepmother, who’s in the Woman’s Hall of Fame in Florida. It took me awhile to make peace with that. It’s like, this woman who made my life a living hell is in the Hall of Fame? Hmm.

And my family, including me, right? We were victimized by the murder of my brother. So, it’s one thing to be a victim, it’s another thing to remain a victim. And oh gosh, I think a lot of things can be summed up, a lot of problems with human beings can be summed up, like we just led our normal reactions, our normal emotional reactions take over.

For example, and this doesn’t even have to be like a too deeper, negative or dark, it could just be, “Donuts are delicious,” it’s like our own…Who chooses that donuts and ice cream are delicious? Did you choose that? No. You put it in your mouth, it exploded with flavor in your brain, and you’re like, “Hmm, more,’ right? And so, like our natural instinct.

And if you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, I’ve talked about this before, the difference between hot cognition and cold cognition. Our hot cognition, that instinctual or instinctive part of ourselves, it’s like, “Yeah, just eat ice cream and donuts, it’s delicious, more,” right?

Versus, “Whoa, yes, ice cream is—this is your cold cognition talking—ice cream is delicious, however, it’s high in calories, it’s low in satiety. If I engage in eating ice cream too much, I’m going to put on weight, and then I’m going to see myself in the mirror, feel really bad, my clothes aren’t going to fit, I’m going to feel bad about that too.”

So, we got to balance things here, folks. So, we’ve got to start to realize our patterns, those automatic patterns that we have in response to food, in response to negative events. Oh gosh, I mean, in response to getting a flat tire on the way to work, whatever it is, a fire, you know, the so-called fires, dumpster fires, as one of my clients call them, that come up in your business, not real dumpster fires, by the way, but the metaphorical ones that need to be addressed so that your business can continue, and not go up in flames. Metaphorical flames.

So, we’ve got to start to become aware of our instinctive responses, our automatic responses. And we just have to ask ourselves, is this serving me? Yes, or no? And if thing, if something isn’t serving you, then that’s an opportunity to change it, so that your experience of life is better. And guess what? That’s hard fucking work. Oh my gosh, I’m still working on that, but it can be done, it can be done.

So, if you’re in a pattern of sabotage, you can pull out, but if you’re having trouble doing it on your own, you’re going to need some help. And man, I’ve needed some help in my life. I just signed up with another psychologist, I’ve tried three recently, and the first two, they just wasn’t working for me, their approach. But this third one, I felt a difference from the first session, she’s got me taking cold showers and listening to books, she’s given me a lot of homework to do.

And I think, and this is kind of a bit of a tangent, but I think it’s still important. It does come down to the work that you do. Even if you’re in therapy like me, or you’re seeing a coach. I’ve got a business coach, I got two business coaches actually, not going to—a story for another time, if you haven’t heard that story before, I’ve got a psychologist who I’m seeing.

So, we need it, we need others to help us if we’re not getting it done on our own, and those others, it could be books, it could be podcasts, all those things are great. Invest how you can, when you can, but just know that working with the best people you can find is the fastest way to achieve whatever type of result you want. Whether that’s in your business, whether that’s with your health, whether that’s in your relationships.

That’s what I want to leave you with, I hope this one hits you hard. Mia, thank you so much for your message, really appreciate, it really means a lot, it means a lot to me. Very appreciative. All right, that is it, have an amazing weekend, and I’ll speak to you on Monday.

Ted Ryce is a high-performance coach, celebrity trainer, and a longevity evangelist. A leading fitness professional for over 24 years in the Miami Beach area, who has worked with celebrities like Sir Richard Branson, Rick Martin, Robert Downey, Jr., and hundreads of CEOs of multimillion-dollar companies. In addition to his fitness career, Ryce is the host of the top-rated podcast called Legendary Life, which helps men and women reclaim their health, and create the body and life they deserve.

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