Kim Yawitz, RD
Want to know the toughest thing about being a dietitian? It’s not the science, or dealing with comments like “this one guy said xx on YouTube so you’re wrong.” It’s listening to the way that some people talk about themselves and their bodies! These negative thoughts hurt my ears (and my heart) of course, but negative self-talk for weight loss is also completely counterproductive.
Admittedly, I’m not the most feely person out there. At the risk of showing my age, I sometimes feel a little like Stuart Smalley when I practice positive self-affirmations.
But friend, it’s much better than thinking things like, “I’m such a pig,” (I’m cringing right now) or “I have zero willpower.”
Today, I’m going to explain why these thoughts will only set your weight loss efforts back, in hopes that this info can help you reach your goals (and even start to recognize how awesome you are!).
What is Self-Talk?
Self-talk refers to your inner voice and, specifically, the things you think about yourself.
A completely normal phenomenon, your self-talk comes from a combination of conscious thoughts, subconscious beliefs, hidden biases, and other factors.
Unfortunately, negative self-talk is incredibly common and can be very damaging for mental and even physical health.
The Problems with Negative Self-Talk for Weight Loss
I guess I can kind of understand why so many people have negative self-talk about their weight (and no, the answer is NOT because it’s true).
You might feel like you’re being helpful by diagnosing a problem (aka, “I can’t control myself around sugar,” or “I’m genetically programmed to be this way and nothing has ever worked.”).
I think there can also be a bit of a self-protective mechanism going on in some cases. Perhaps thoughts like, “I’m already aware of this [perceived] flaw and no one can beat me up about it more than I already do”? Or, “I’m going to point this out just so you know I’m aware of it”?
Regardless of its origins, there are a couple of big problems with this mindset. As author James Clear wrote in Atomic Habits, “….the real reason you fail to stick with habits is that your self-image gets in the way.”
If you want to implement healthier habits that support weight loss, you have to believe that you’re capable of losing weight!
This means shushing that voice in your head that says you’ll never lose that weight, and that you have no willpower, that you’re lazy…all that BS you tell yourself. If you want to make positive change, you need to identify as someone who is competent and able. BECAUSE YOU ARE!!
This brings me to my second point: Negative self-talk is rarely accurate. I have yet to encounter a bit of negative self-talk that I couldn’t scientifically disprove, or at least make a pretty compelling counterargument.
I understand that maybe you’ve tried before and not gotten the results that you want, and that you’re frustrated. Believe me, I get it.
But there are always workarounds to those big obstacles. It’s just a matter of finding the ones that fit best in your lifestyle.
And again, it’s a matter of believing in yourself.
Positive Self-Talk for Weight Loss
Are you ready to start being a little kinder to yourself? Good. Let’s talk a bit about how to do that.
The first step is to take notice when you feel negative thoughts creeping into your brain. There are a few ways you can do this.
One popular method is to ask yourself if you’d let someone say that about your best friend/child/spouse. If the answer is no, you’re not allowed to think that about yourself.
But here’s my favorite. I have no idea how or why I started doing this, but it’s very effective when I start badgering myself.
Have you ever seen The Family Feud? Whenever a contestant has a wrong answer, they get a big red X on the screen that’s accompanied by a super obnoxious buzzing sound.
This is what I picture when I notice myself having negative self-talk. I picture a big red X marking over that thought, and I can actually hear the buzzer in my brain.
At a minimum, this tactic puts a stop to this negative thought nonsense. Sometimes, it even makes me smile.
A second and equally important strategy for curtailing negative self-talk is to celebrate your bright spots.
I don’t care how unhealthy you think you are, I guarantee you’re doing something that supports good health! Whether you drink lots of water or get 7 hours of sleep per night or even brush your teeth twice a day, you already do things that make you healthier.
So here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to take a minute at the end of each day to acknowledge the things you did well. You can just think it, but I suggest writing down at least 2-3 positive steps you took to improve your health each day. They don’t have to be big!
Reflecting on what you’re doing right builds self-confidence and allows you to piggyback on your own success. It’s a great way to start practicing positive self-talk for weight loss.
And while it’s not specific to self-talk, it can also be helpful to remember that weight is just one measure of health and fitness.
As such, it might help to make a list of non-scale victories worth celebrating. Some of my favorite examples include setting a new PR in the gym, having more energy, sleeping better, and having less pain/creakiness.
Hopefully I’ve convinced you to tell your inner critic to stuff it, because beating yourself up will only hold you back from your weight loss goals.
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