As much as we may hate to admit it, we are our own worst critics—especially when it comes to our bodies and weight loss. And these negative thoughts that run through our heads can end up affecting our feelings and eventually even our behavior. As the author James Allen once said, "You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you."
If you often find yourself thinking things like "I screwed up" or I'm never going to be able to do this," it is more likely that you will give up on your goals and continue to feel down, ashamed, or guilty. So instead, let's try changing our inner dialogue and move forward with a practice that encourages more positive feelings and healthier behavior.
We need a new approach to weight loss.
When it comes to weight loss, you might find yourself saying, "I deserve this piece of chocolate; I've worked hard all day," or "I ate a terrible breakfast; the day is ruined. I might as well start eating healthy tomorrow." But all of these thoughts come from a negative place, can be self-sabotaging, and will also likely affect your ability to achieve long-term success in weight management.
The good news is, this type of thinking can be altered, and you can get the healthy results you're looking for by following these tips to change your mindset to keep negative thinking at bay:
1. Recognize when you are having negative thoughts.
If you're not aware of your thoughts, how can you know if they are standing between you and your goal? The key is to stay attuned to when you're having negative thoughts and then make changes in your thinking. A great strategy is to write down your most common self-critical labels and name them ("lazy" as just one example). Then, when you notice these thoughts showing up, call them out (ah, it's the "I'm so lazy" story again!), and this will help put them in their place and greatly reduce their power over you.
2. Drop the "-er."
When we label ourselves with statements like "I’m an emotional eater," you become a self-fulfilling prophecy and will continue the behavior. In a book by Michelle May on emotional eating, she suggests dropping the "-er" and changing it to "-ing." For example, instead of "I'm an emotional eater," change the statement to "I'm eating for emotional reasons." The emotional eating is a behavior. It isn't who you are.
3. Remind yourself of the consequences of this type of thinking.
It's extremely important that you slow down, take some deep breaths, and remind yourself that everyone has thoughts that create doubt. What matters most is our ability to observe that thinking, recognize it, and not let those thoughts control our behavior or give us excuses for why we should or shouldn't do something. Letting these negative thoughts limit you is the real consequence of this type of thinking.
4. Replace negative thoughts with positive, more helpful thoughts.
Think about a friend who is struggling with one of these thoughts. What would you tell him or her? You would likely respond in a compassionate manner, and this is the same way you need to respond to yourself.
So the next time you find yourself saying, "It's too hard to lose weight," recognize that yes, it is hard to lose weight. Then remind yourself that there is never going to be an ideal time to lose weight and that if you keep putting it off, you may never have weight-management success. Replace it with a statement about how you deserve to prioritize your health such as, "What is one thing I can do today that is a step toward taking care of myself?"
5. Practice self-compassion.
When you notice negative self-talk, ask yourself how you would respond to your family members if they shared a similar thought about themselves. You wouldn't beat them up for it, would you? Beating yourself up will keep you stuck in the same negative pattern, so take a moment to reflect on how you would respond to someone you care deeply about who was having the same struggle. Even write it down on a sticky note as a reminder to ease up on yourself a little.
Weight loss is difficult, and negative thoughts are a habit that is hard to break. But changing your thinking is not impossible; it starts with awareness, and as Albert Einstein said so eloquently, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." So remember that to get to your goal, you need progress, not perfection.