As emotional eaters we have to understand that managing our emotions is a major part of the process of improving our overall health. And managing our emotions starts with being careful about what we say about ourselves to ourselves. When we have negative thoughts we have to learn to rephrase them or even better- stop them before they fester. Letting negative thoughts stick around is like permission to treat yourself badly. As overeaters one thing we know for sure: when things aren’t going our way – we turn to food. That’s our go-to. When we’re stressed we eat. When we’re nervous we eat. When we feel bad about ourselves –we eat.
We already have the challenge of not turning to food when we feel bad so why add to that by being the ones making us feel bad? It’s crazy right? So don’t do it. I know, I know, easier said than done. So let’s unpack all the reasons why we should give ourselves a break and forgive ourselves for whatever it is we think we did “wrong” and learn some ways to that help us to be kinder to ourselves on a daily basis.
So what are some common triggers that lead us to thinking badly about ourselves?
Repeat weight loss and weight gain is a chronic pattern for overeaters. Many people reading this blog, myself included, have lost weight before only to gain it back. Often times the bad thoughts come from a feeling of repetition. We gain, we lose. We gain, we lose. When will the cycle end and more importantly, a common thought is “When will I learn?” Okay, this is definitely my issue. I’m queen of this kind of negative thought. I struggle at least once or twice a week with this statement roaming through my head: “I can’t believe I let myself go back to this weight again!” I lost 30 lbs in 2002 and then slowly gained it back. Then I lost 35 lbs in 2010…………and gained it back again. WTF? !! Sound familiar?
If you’ve ever lost weight before, whether you gained it back or you kept it off and you just have more to lose, it’s not the point. The point is you shouldn’t be beating yourself up about this. Instead think about it this way: you have proof that you are capable of change. And that is everything. I believe that everyone is capable of change but it’s that knowledge that you know you can change that is golden and if you’ve ever lost weight before then you have that knowledge. You just have to recall it. So next time you find yourself thinking about the last time you lost weight – think about it with pride and remember that this is just evidence of what you are capable of.
Another reason we might start to have negative thoughts about ourselves is when we look in the mirror and we see the evidence of our overeating. We see the extra weight and we start to associate that with proof that we haven’t learned anything and we’re never going to move on from this problem. Or we start thinking about how many years we’ve spent working on this problem and we start to believe it’s too late. We think that if we haven’t gotten it by now then we never will and the negative train is on a roll.
But what we don’t realize is that we are learning. Every time we try and we don’t meet our goal we are learning something. I love Oprah’s new Weight Watchers promo where she says:
“Nothing you’ve ever been through is wasted. So, every time I tried and failed, every time I tried again, and every time I tried again, has brought me to this most powerful moment, to say, if not now, when?”
I love this. She said it so eloquently and perfectly. Everyone starts at a different place in their journey and we each have a different amount of things to learn about ourselves before we can change ourselves and so this “failure” we keep beating ourselves up about it not really a failure –it’s in fact a lesson and one more step towards success. There are no failures, there are only steps towards success. The only failure is when you don’t try.
So now I try to think about my past like this:
“I learned how to get the weight off but I am still struggling with how to keep it off which for me translated even further into developing real, strong habits that I can stick to in the long run versus short term, weaker habits that get me quick results. I also learned that I need to work on the reasons why I turn to food, i.e. the emotional eating. Once I figure out what makes me turn to food I can work on confronting those feelings and learning to deal with them in a healthy way that does not involve food.”
Another common trigger for thinking badly about ourselves: we often think that we have a “silly” problem and that we’re somehow not as strong as other people because we “just can’t stop eating”.
Okay so this is when you feel bad that you are struggling with something that you have deemed so simple. Eat the right foods. Stop eating! It’s so easy. Damn, why is this my struggle? Sometimes you wish you had a ‘real’ problem and whatever reason you think that the issue of overeating and weight management is just……..common.
I have had those thoughts. Here’s how I retrained myself:
“Because food is a required thing that we have to have – that makes managing it super hard.”
In our society of ‘first world’ problems, food is everywhere. It is abundant in its real and fake forms. And we have to eat some of it. If we didn’t need food then it would be easy. At least with drug addictions you can say well you don’t need drugs. You can stop cold turkey. You can’t do that with food. That’s why it’s so freakin’ hard! I wish I could go cold turkey on food! Ooh, now I want some cold turkey…………………in a nice baguette with an aoli dressing and pop chips………. I digress. J
These are all valid reasons to have negative thoughts but we must figure out a way to stop them from taking over the way we think about ourselves because negative thinking is getting in the way. It’s getting in the way of us losing the weight. When you focus on the negative you start to really believe what you’re saying and you lose confidence in yourself. It’s getting in the way of all the other great things we have to do in ths life after we lose the weight. Put simply – we don’t have time to think badly about ourselves. That is wasting precious time that we could be spending improving our health and moving on to do all the wonderful, awesome things we were put on this earth to accomplish.
But this negative talk, it’s been around a long time. It’s been a daily ritual sometimes of constantly beating yourself up. In essence, it’s a habit. A bad one, but a habit none the less. So what can we do to break the habit? What tricks can we use to start to think a different way until the positive thinking becomes the natural habit?
- We can write down how we feel. Get it out on paper so that you can see the words. When you can see the words you can better see the truth in them. You can acknowledge how mean it sounds when you’re talking to yourself badly. You wouldn’t talk to your friend like that would you? You should be your own best friend! So don’t talk to yourself like that anymore.
Writing also organizes our thoughts. All those negative thoughts are . Sort that mess out. Write it down. Then you can see not only what you’re saying but also what you’re saying repeatedly in varying ways. Sometimes you’re saying one negative thing in a bunch of creative ways. Stop it. Write it down and draw a big dramatic “X” through it.
Conversely, make a list of nice things to say about yourself. Again with the writing. Write out some nice things about yourself that you know to be true. And keep that list handy. Say those things to yourself in the morning when you start the day. Start every day reaffirming the good in you, because you are good. We all are.
2. Remember the victories. Write a list of accomplishments you’ve made in your life. Make sure some are health related but they don’t all have to be. Non-health related victories are great because they remind you that although you struggle with your weight you excel at other things so you have strengths. We all have natural strengths and then we all have things that don’t come naturally to us. Anyone who relates to this blog does not have a natural strength to eat in moderation and maintain a healthy weight. That is not something that comes naturally to us. And that’s okay. We have other things that we are naturally good at and it’s important to remind yourself of those other things. It’s so easy to focus on the negative. Train your brain to focus on the positive.
3. Surround yourself with positive people. I wrote a post at the beginning of the year on surrounding yourself with like-minded people. When I wrote that post I was speaking about eating and working out but there’s a third component to being healthy and that’s having a positive attitude. If you already have trouble being kind to yourself why would you add to that by surrounding yourself with negative people? Whether they actually put you down or put themselves down or just talk about life in general in a negative way – none of it is good for you. Squash it today. Stop hanging out with these people. Politely excuse yourself from all negative talk. But also remember: in order to be around positive people, you yourself have to be positive. You have to be positive if you want to attract positive people into your inner circle. Having other people be kind to you starts with you. Be kind to yourself and demand that others follow suit. You need to create a safe, loving, and warm environment where you feel calm and happy as often as possible. This will help you stay focused on the positive.
I know that it can be hard to stay positive when you are struggling with overeating and losing weight. We have a lot of opportunities where we could choose to be negative, focus on the past, regret, regret, regret. Or we can take those same opportunities and choose to stay positive, focus on the present, learn from our mistakes. The former gets you nowhere. The latter gets you onward in your journey and closer to a healthier future.
Cheers to you and your positive, beaming self!