Change This Bad Habit, Accomplish Anything

By , SparkPeople Blogger
There are a lot of important pieces in the weight loss puzzle. Good tools for tracking nutrition and exercise, reliable information, social support to boost motivation and help you stay focused--all of these things are crucial. But even with all this, success still comes down to how well you can help yourself make good choices in the moments when those choices actually need to be made.

All of us have to cope with feelings, thoughts, impulses, and situations that can make it very hard to stay mindful, motivated, and disciplined when it’s time to actually decide what we’re going to eat and whether we’re going to get up and do some exercise. Learning how to effectively coach yourself through these challenges is crucial if you want to keep moving forward. And the first step here is paying careful attention to how you talk to yourself when things go well, and when they don’t.

For me, negative self-talk has always been the biggest obstacle to doing what I need to do. In the past, I started all my weight loss campaigns with extremely negative feelings toward myself, like feeling disgusted every time I saw myself in a mirror or photo, and assuming others felt the same way about me. I told myself that losing weight was the key to being happy. Every time I gave in to some impulse or bad mood, I mercilessly beat myself up for not having the character or willpower to say no to a candy bar or second helping of dinner; I never gave myself any credit when I did well.

I can tell you now that this “tougher than toughlove” kind of negativity is a prescription for failure. Even if feeling bad about myself motivated me to try to make some changes, it was never enough to keep me going for very long. Mainly, it just increased my feelings of resentment, frustration, and helplessness until they erupted in an eating binge or a collapse into depression and hopelessness. All that negative self-talk made it impossible for me to come up with any realistic goals and strategies, or figure out how to help myself do what I wanted to do. I was stuck for years in an all-or-nothing mentality where I had to be perfectly good or I felt perfectly bad.

But I’ve also learned that I can’t just switch my self-talk to the other extreme, where it’s full of sweetness and abstract fluff about how wonderful I am and how I can accomplish anything I want as long as I believe I can. That may help turn off some of the negative self-talk for a few minutes, but that’s just the beginning. What I really need is the sort of non-sugarcoated but respectful “push” you get from a good coach: identifying both my strengths and my weaknesses, recognizing what needs work, setting realistic and meaningful goals, learning from my problems and my successes, and challenging me to put my best efforts forward.

At this point, I’ve identified four principles of constructive self-talk that help me avoid falling back into the pit of negativity and verbal self-abuse:

1. Don’t say anything to myself I wouldn’t say to someone else. If I find myself slipping back into harsh self-criticism, perfectionism, or unrealistic expectations, I stop for a minute and ask myself whether what I’m saying to myself is something I’d say to anyone else who came to me looking for help with a similar situation. Then I say that to myself instead.

2. Look at the whole picture. No matter how persistent a problem seems to be, I remind myself it is never the whole story. There are times when I’ve handled the problem well and accomplished something positive. Instead of just going over what went wrong this time, I ask myself what I did to make things go right in those other instances, and how I can do that again now.

3. Ditch the drama. If I’m upset about something I ate or some exercise I didn’t do, I remind myself that, in the grand scheme of things, this just really doesn’t matter very much. I’m going to eat well more than 50,000,000 calories in my lifetime (that’s about 2000/day for 68 years), so how much does it really matter whether a few hundred of them got eaten a few hours earlier than scheduled? Is it going to ruin my life if it takes me a few days longer to reach my weight or fitness goal? Really, it’s blowing the small stuff way out of proportion that causes the real problems, isn’t it?

4. Reward myself for positive thinking. Meaningful rewards are powerful motivators. But how often do we reward ourselves for taking the time to really think things through in order to get past unhelpful reactions, assumptions, and negative self-talk? I used to reward myself when the scale showed me a number I liked, but that never helped me stay motivated when the scale wasn't being cooperative. Now I do it when I stop a negative rant in its tracks or manage to follow the principles above when I need them.

Once you've found your own way to stop the negative self-talk, then you'll be free to give yourself the kind of authentic toughlove that can really get and keep you moving towards success.

How are you at coaching yourself? Do you have any secrets or suggestions that have worked for you?

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SUNSET09 5/25/2021
Good points to ponder, SparkFriends Report
USMAWIFE 5/20/2021
thank you Report
Thanks! Report
RACHAEL2020 10/12/2020
Stay positive Report

I will reward myself for positive thinking Report
Great article! Report
It can be easy to get in the habit of putting yourself down. Sometimes we think if we do it in front of others we won't be perceived as proud or stuck up. Or perhaps they will contradict us and give us the compliment we really want to hear. Report
Great changes to make. Report
Negative thoughts is one of my down falls! Report
Change is easy said but hard to do. Report
Good article; great points. Report
It is not easy to change a habit. Report
Great article! Report
Thanks so much. This makes good sense and I believe it can help me - a LOT, if I remember these guidelines and put them into ACTION! Report
very positive thoughts. It makes one look inside self and realize you are your worst critic, a merciless one! Report
Wow what a great article and the comments are even better. I've gotten a lot of ideas to keep myself from putting myself down. I've got to keep myself upbeat to keep going. It's so easy to get discouraged when the numbers don't go the way I'd like them to. Report
Great article, brilliant advice and a fabulous morning motivator. Thanks so much!! Report
So appreciate your tips. Negative self talk is a huge problem with me. I can be my own worst enemy. I will start to use your tips, the timing is perfect. Thanks for
sharing Report
This was great to read, just what I needed this morning!
Thanks Dean. Report
Wow.. me to a T.. so very true.. and a very hard habit to break.. Report
What a great blog! Thanks for the confirmation that we are capable of sabotaging ourselves. Self discipline is so much easier if we don't have negative input. So often that negative voice is our own. It is often hard to catch yourself. But the more aware we are of the "inner voice" the more opportunity we have to change the input from negative to positive. Thanks for an insightful blog! Report
Thanks, Coach Dean. I've been indulging in some very negative thinking lately. This is my third go-around trying to lose weight. I've regained my weight twice before. In the last couple of months, my discipline and determination have weakened, and I've regained 5 pounds. I've almost been predicting that I'm going to regain it all again. I sure have been behaving like it, complete with a lapse in sensible eating and coming up with too many excuses why I'm not following my walking program.

But you gave me something to think about. Instead of beating myself up over regaining 5 pounds, why am I not giving myself credit for the 50 I've lost? Even more important, instead of dwelling on all the things I see that I'm doing wrong right now, what were those things that I was doing right when I first started out and was all fired up to succeed? That's what I need to be focusing on. This is an important mental turn-around for me. Thank you! Report
#4 is a great thought - Why else do we return to difficult tasks? Because we have seen or experienced some form of reward.

Great blog post! Report
Great blog! Such good advice! THANKS!! Report
So true, so true! Report
Wonderful blog - Thanks for sharing! Report
Really well said...Thanks! Report
Good article - I like the four rules. We do tend to base our rewards based on the number on the scale - we should be rewarding our self for sticking to our goals like getting in our water or exercising etc. Report
Lots of good advice - thanks so much for sharing this! :) Report
Awesome blog! I learned lots from this one. Report
Great post. You hit the problem on the head! Thanks for sharing. Report
This is a good motivational article. It put my head where it needed to be to get some things done. Thanks Dean. Report
Thank you Coach Dean...I have truly missed you....There are many time I catch myself in this negative self talk...thank you for the reminder... Report
Great article. I joined SparkPeople last week and this is the first article that I have saved. I look forward to more! Report
Thank you so much, Dean, for another great article! You are such an inspiration for me. Report
Lovely blog! One question I'd like to see answered sometime, though, is how do you reward yourself for getting out of a negative rant? I always have a hard time determining what an accomplishment is worth reward-wise, like maybe this is a cup of tea-type reward and not a 60-minute massage reward. But is it a go-to-the-store-and-buy-a-special-t
ea reward, or a drink-what-you-have reward? It seems I have a gift for overcomplication, but I am curious about the rewards! =) Report
I remember being asked one time "If you were walking the corridor of your mind, would you be mugged"? Report
Great Blog! There is a tremendous mind/body connection that we can learn to tap into to move toward our health and fitness goals. Our body is not the enemy! Learning to speak to and about our body in a loving positive way will have positive results! Report
Love it "Don't say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to someone else" Perfect. Report
This article couldn't have come at a better time. Yesterday I eat everything and I do mean everything, and drank several beers too. I weighted myself this morning and was kicking myself for the extra two lbs. But, your right. It's not the end of the world, it's just a small delay in my goal. Report
this article actually helped me. thanks Report
This was a very insightful article. Liked it. Report
Thanks, this was GREAT! Right on time! Report
Thank you, I needed to read that. I am terrible at my own self talk. I will try to remember those 4 points because when I try the sweetness approach to myself, I just gag. Report
This fits in well with the positive self image and visualization that I have read about and try to practice. Thank you for reminding us.
cindy Report
great article...all things i need to work on
Great Blog - Thank You. I have saved this to my favorites. I need to be reminded once in a while about being positive and constructive in what and how I am doing. Report
Self esteem-negative self talk...My ex-husband gave me enough negativisms to last a lifetime...However I refused to let him beat me to the ground. I made myself think positive about myself until I got to believe it! "No one put's Baby in the corner!" Report